New Delhi: The government has decided to import onions to meet the shortfall in domestic supply after curbs on exports and countrywide stock limits failed to bring down the prices. State-owned trading company MMTC Ltd has issued a tender seeking bids to import 2,000 tonnes of onions by October end with a price cap of $352 per tonne.

This comes against the backdrop of onion prices touching 80 per kg in some parts of the country because of supply disruption after floods in states such as Maharashtra in August.

The government had imposed a minimum export price of $850 per tonne on onions on 13 September, but consumer affairs secretary A.K. Srivastava complained to the commerce ministry that exports are continuing unabated following which the directorate general of foreign trade banned exports.

The consumer affairs ministry also imposed stock limits on onion traders to facilitate release of stocks in the market and prevent hoarding. For retail traders, the stock limit is 100 quintals and for wholesale traders, it is 500 quintals.

In 2018-19, the government had imported onions worth $1.1 million mostly from Afghanistan.

India’s onion exports fell 10.7% to $154.5 million in April-July from a year ago. Malaysia, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and the United Arab Emirates were the top importers of onion from India during this period.

The ban on exports, which has come against this backdrop, has also become an irritant in the bilateral trade relationship with Bangladesh, with the country’s prime minister Sheikh Hasina raising the matter at a business forum meeting in Delhi last week.

“Pyaaz leke thoda sa dikkat ho gaya hamare liye. Mujhe maloom nahin hai, aapne kyun pyaaz band kar diya. Thoda notice dene se achcha hota—hum dusre desh se la sakte the. Achanak band kar diya aur ye hamare liye mushqil ban gaya." (We are facing some problems because of the ban on onion exports from India. I don’t know why you banned the export. It would have been better if you had alerted us in advance. We could have sourced onions from other countries. You banned it suddenly and it became a problem for us)," she had told the India-Bangladesh Business Forum on Friday.

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