There was a delay in sowing of kharif onion because of late arrival of monsoon and later floods in many states damaged the crop.
Onion prices have shot up to Rs 80/kg in the retail market due to 30-40 per cent decline in domestic production and the government is taking all steps to contain the price rise, Union Food and Consumer Affairs Minister Ram Vilas Paswan said on Wednesday.
In view of high prices, Paswan reviewed the situation of demand, supply and prices with top officials of food and consumer affairs departments for two hours at his residence.
The secretaries of both the departments were present.
"We have reviewed the onion availability and price situation. Prices have gone up as production (kharif onion) has declined by 30-40 per cent in the country," Paswan told reporters in New Delhi.
There was a delay in sowing of kharif onion because of late arrival of monsoon and later floods in many states damaged the crop, he said.
Stating that prices fluctuate depending on supply-demand, Paswan said currently, there is mismatch in this.
However, the government is taking measures to improve availability and check prices.
"We are concerned about the situation and the government is trying its best. We have taken maximum steps," he said.
Asked when the prices will cool down, Paswan said, "I am not an astrologer but it should hopefully come down by end of November or beginning December."
He also appealed consumers and media to give suggestions to address the current crisis.
Highlighting measures, Paswan said the government has banned the export of raw and processed onions, imposed stock holding limits on traders besides offloading buffer stock at a cheaper rate of Rs 23.90 per kg to provide relief to consumers.
That apart, the government is making efforts to facilitate imports through private trade from Afghanistan, Egypt, Turkey and Iran.
The agriculture ministry has also been asked to liberalise import norms, he said.
Paswan said much of the onions from the buffer stock of 57,000 tonnes has been disposed off, while 25 per cent of it has been rotten due to short shelf life of the commodity. Still, 1,525 tonnes is left in the central buffer stock.
He also blamed the Delhi government for not lifting the buffer stock and questioning about the quality of the onion.
Consumer affairs secretary Avinash K Srivastava said onion production is estimated to have declined to 20 lakh tonnes in 2019 kharif season from 30 lakh tonnes in the same season last year.
The production figures have not yet been received from the Maharashtra government, but there is substantial fall in the output because of floods, he said.
Not only in Delhi, onion prices are ruling high in most of the consuming areas across the country. However in the national capital, onion has been a "politically sensitive" commodity.
In Delhi, the availability of onion is being improved from the central buffer stock handled by co-operative Nafed.
The buffer stock has been given to Mother Dairy for retailing at a cheaper rate of Rs 23.90 per kg through its 400-odd Safal outlets to provide relief to consumers.
However, some of the Safal outlets are running out of stock and poor consumers are returning with disappointment.
"I waited for two hours in the queue to buy onions from Safal but when my turn came the stock got over," said a housemaid Mumtaz who was waiting outside the Safal outlet at Jangpura Extension.
The price rise has affected to an extent that in some localities, the customers of a particular colony are requesting the Safal owners not to sell the commodity to outsiders.
Photograph: Ajay Verma/Reuters