New Delhi: The government has banned export of onions with immediate effect to check spiraling prices which touched 70- 80 per kg in the open market. The ban covers all varieties of onions.

The Directorate General of Foreign Trade under the Ministry of Commerce and Industry issued the notification today, banning the export of the commodity.

The retail prices of onions spiked to 70- 80 earlier this week while the wholesale market prices too climbed to 40- 50 per kg, a hike of 10- 20 kg from a month-ago levels. Six months back, onions were available at 12-15 per kg in the wholesale market.

Floods in key onion-producing states of Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Gujarat and Rajasthan have hurt supplies. Hoarding by traders, ahead of the festival season, is also said to be behind the spike in prices. This phenomenon of traders jacking up the prices is repeated every few years, this time coming after a lull of four years.

The Centre has offloaded 16,000 tonnes of the 56,000 tonnes buffer stock it had. It has also galvanized agencies like National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation of India and Mother Dairy to sell onions cheaper at their outlets.

The Delhi government is selling onions at 23.90 per kg through fair price shops and mobile vans. One person is allowed a maximum purchase of 5 kgs.

The timing of the ban is crucial, coming as it does when assembly polls are due in Maharashtra, a key onion producer, and Haryana next month. Onion prices can be a sensitive issue in elections and the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) would remember that -- the party had lost the assembly elections in Delhi in 1998 due to high onion prices then.

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