Millennium Post (Kolkata)

Govt to start procuring 5L tonnes of rabi onion in 2-3 days


Amid concern over likely fall in mandi prices in view of extension of onion export ban, the government on Tuesday assured farmers that it will start procuremen­t of 5 lakh tonnes of rabi onion in next 2-3 days to protect their interest.

Last week, the commerce ministry extended the ban on onion export till further orders. The ban on onion shipment was valid till March 31.

“We want to assure farmers that their concern will be taken care of . ... We will begin procuremen­t of 5 lakh tonne of rabi (winter) crop in the next 2-3 days for maintainin­g a buffer stock,” Consumer Affairs Secretary Rohit Kumar Singh told reporters. The onion export ban is affecting traders and not farmers as average mandi (wholesale) prices are ruling currently at around Rs 13-15/ kg in Maharasthr­a, which is almost double from the previous year level, he said.

“Even if prices crash, we will protect the interest of farmers,” he added. The secretary said the government normally buys onion for the buffer stock at a prevailing mandi rates. However if the rates fall below the cost of production, the government will ensure their cost is covered at least.

In 2023-24, the government had procured 6.4 lakh tonnes of onion (both rabi and kharif crops) for the buffer stock at an average rate of Rs 17 per kg. Almost entire quantity has been disposed off, he said.

Nidhi Khare, Officer on Special Duty in the Consumer Affairs Ministry, said the onion procuremen­t during the last year was done in June but this year it is going to kick-start early in the next two days. Two nodal cooperativ­e agencies — Nafed and National Cooperativ­e Consumers’ Federation of India (NCCF) — will undertake procuremen­t, she said.

For the procuremen­t, NAFED and NCCF are to preregiste­r the onion farmers to ensure that payments to the farmers are transferre­d to their bank accounts through Direct Benefit Transfer. About the impact of likely fall in rabi onion production on retail prices, the secretary said the average retail prices are currently stable at Rs 33/kg in the country.

The government has chalked out an action plan to address the supply-demand gap in two ways. The government is testing improving shelf life of 1,322 tonnes of onion through radiation treatment, and secondly farmers in key growing areas will be encouraged to grow early kharif crop subject to weather conditions, he said.

Rabi onion production is estimated to decline by 20 per cent to 190.5 lakh tonnes in the 2023-24 season (July-June), as against 237 lakh tonnes in the year-ago period as per the agricultur­e ministry data.

Rabi onion is critical for country’s onion availabili­ty as it contribute­s 72-75 per cent of annual production in the country. The rabi onion is also crucial for ensuring year-round availabili­ty of onion as it has better shelf life compared to Kharif (summer) onion and can be stored for supplies till November-December.

‘Two nodal agencies —

Nafed & National Cooperativ­e Consumers’ Federation of India — will undertake procuremen­t’

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