Centre taking steps to check onion prices: FM
New Delhi: Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Wednesday said in Lok Sabha that the government has taken a host of measures including imports to deal with the rising prices of onion.
She said that there are several structural issues related to storage of onions and the government is trying to addressed them,
The Minister was replying to the debate on the first batch of Supplementary Demands for Grants.
Prices of onions prices in many places have crossed Rs 100 per kg because of shortage.
Steps taken by the government to check rising prices of onion include ban on exports, imposition of stock limit, import and transfer of onion from surplus to deficit area.
She also said that due to implementation of direct benefit transfer scheme, the government has been able to save Rs 1.41 lakh crore in the last five years.
The government plugged all loopholes through DBT and "all dalals and middlemen have been eliminated from the system", she said.
Lok Sabha later passed the first batch of Supplementary Demands for Grants allowing the government to spend an additional Rs 21,246.16 crore, including over Rs 8,820 crore in the newly formed Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh in the current fiscal ending March 2020.
The total cash outgo will be about Rs 19,000 crore. The government has sought Rs 8,820.62 crore as grants for Union territories of Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh in lieu of the erstwhile state's share of 14th Finance Commission Award.
Another Rs 4,557 crore will be infused in the IDBI Bank through recapitalisation bonds, while Rs 2,500 crore will go into recapitalisation of state-owned insurance companies.
Meanwhile, State-run trading firm MMTC has placed another onion import order of 4,000 tonnes from Turkey and the shipments are expected to reach by mid-January, the government said on Wednesday.
This is in addition to 17,090 tonnes of onions already contracted, which includes 6,090 tonnes from Egypt and 11,000 tonnes from Turkey, it said in a statement.
MMTC is importing onions on the behalf of the government, which is trying to check prices of the key bulb by improving domestic supplies through various modes, including imports.
Onion prices remain high in the range of Rs 75-100/kg across major cities of the country.
According to the statement, the Department of Consumer Affairs has also directed MMTC to issue three more tenders for import of onions.
Out of three tenders, two are the country-specific, namely Turkey and the European Union, and one is a global tender. Each of these tenders are for 5,000 tonnes, it said.
To facilitate early imports, the Consumer Affairs Ministry said certain norms have been relaxed in the new tenders issued.
These include the size of onions to be imported have been expanded to 40mm-80mm, consortium bidding has been allowed, exporters can offer shipment in multiple lots.
Additionally, relaxed fumigation conditions that were earlier provided till November 30, have been extended till December 31. This is expected to further increase participation, competition and reduce price, it said.
Besides, a coordination committee has also been formed to ensure that the entire process of import and distribution is streamlined so as to ensure timely arrivals and movement of onions and sale by states, the ministry said.
The committee is holding meetings on a daily basis with participation from officials of MMTC, NAFED, CONCOR and associated ministries.
The Shipping Ministry has assured that it will provide priority landing/docking for the ships containing imported onions and will also be appointing a nodal officer at Jawaharlal Nehru Port, Mumbai for ensuring speedy arrivals and onward distribution/dispatch, the statement added.
The Government has also planned procurement of domestically produced onions from major onion producing states to be distributed across all consuming states as per the demand placed by them.
On December 3, the Centre further reduced the stock holding limit for retailers and wholesalers to 5 tonnes and 25 tonnes, respectively. However, these stock limits were exempted on imported onions.
The Cabinet has approved import of 1.2 lakh tonnes of onions to improve the domestic supply and control