Govt may review ban on onion exports at next EGoM meeting

Govt may review ban on onion exports at next EGoM meeting

New Delhi: Amid farmers’ protest against the onion export ban, food and consumer affairs minister K V Thomas on Wednesday said the government may review the decision at the next meeting of the Empowered Group of Ministers (EGoM) on food.

Last week, the EGoM, headed by finance minister Pranab Mukherjee, had decided to ban exports to boost domestic supply and control rising retail prices, which have risen to 25/kg in the national capital from 15/kg in the last few weeks.

“We are watching the situation. We may review the decision in the next EGoM," Thomas told reporters here.

Thomas said the government is not against farmers and traders, but emphasised that onions should be available to consumers at a reasonable price.

“We can understand the Nasik traders problems. We are not against farmers and traders, the only thinking is people of this country should get onions at a reasonable price," Thomas observed.

All the onion markets in Nasik district of Maharashtra, the country’s biggest onion-producing state, have remained closed since 9 September in protest against the export ban.

The minister said the government took the precautionary decision to ban onion exports as it did not want prices to escalate to the levels witnessed earlier this year, when onions were selling at rates as high as 80/kg.

Thomas said that cooperatives Nafed and NCCF have started selling onions from their outlets in Delhi at 18/kg.

Meanwhile, a delegation led by Maharashtra agriculture minister Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil made a representation to finance minister Pranab Mukherjee, seeking removal of the export ban on onions.

After the meeting, Patil said Mukherjee had assured the 11-member delegation of MPs and MLAs that the decision would be reviewed in the next EGoM.

The wholesale price of onions has declined to 600 per quintal in major mandis of Nasik from the level of 1,000 per quintal prior to the ban, according to official data.

“Wholesale prices have fallen after the ban. Farmers are not getting their produce since last Friday, protesting against the export ban," said Baj Rao Shinde, the deputy registrar of the Nasik district Registrar of Cooperative Societies, which oversees the functioning of onion mandis.

Normally, farmers get 10,000 tonnes of onions to the mandis of Nasik district on a daily basis, he said.

India’s onion production is estimated at 151.36 lakh tonnes in 2011-12 (July-June), which is higher than the previous year’s output of 145.62 lakh tonnes. Onions are grown in three seasons -- kharif (summer), late kharif and rabi (winter).

Sowing of kharif crops has been delayed due to the late arrival of monsoon rains in some parts of the country.