Lens on Maharashtra in onion crisis meet

The meeting,to be chaired by Cabinet Secretary Ajit Seth.

Written by Manoj C G | New Delhi | Published: August 14, 2013 2:49 am

The role of Maharashtra’s Congress-led government in not ensuring a steady supply of onion to major mandis of the state will be under the scanner at a meeting of the Committee of Secretaries (CoS) tomorrow.

The meeting,to be chaired by Cabinet Secretary Ajit Seth,will discuss the situation arising out of the surge in the price of onion across the country over the weekend.

The agenda note for the meeting says that from August 1 to August 12,about 1.8 lakh tonnes of the crop arrived at the five major mandis of Lasalgaon,Pimpalgaon,Manmad,Pune and Solapur,which was 40 per cent less than the over 3 lakh tonnes that arrived in the first 12 days of August 2012.

“The state government of Maharashtra was requested to ensure that there is a steady supply of onion from the stocks into the market and intimate the Department of Consumer Affairs if there is any blockage in the supply chain as that causes prices to rise,” the note says.

It does not say whether the Maharashtra government actually sent an intimation about a blocked supply chain.

According to the National Horticultural Research and Development Foundation (NHRDF),the premier institute for research on onion and garlic production,about 27.5 lakh tonnes of onion were stored in warehouses across India after the rabi crop of May-June. This was marginally less than the 29.5 lakh tonnes stored in the previous year.

July-September is considered the lean period for onion,during which demand is met from rabi stocks. The kharif crop starts arriving in markets at the end of September.

At the beginning of August,stocks were estimated at 9-10 lakh tonnes — about 4.5 lakh tonnes of which were in Maharashtra. They were meant for consumption until the beginning of October.

Onion prices during the lean period are temporarily affected because of factors including the depletion of the rabi stock,supply shocks and the monsoon.

Over the long weekend of August 8-11,however,the modal wholesale price of onions shot up about 36 per cent from Rs 3,150/quintal (on August 8) to Rs 4,300/quintal (on August 12). “Something has gone wrong. It could be hoarding in the wake of rising prices,” a Krishi Bhavan official said.

Reports with the agriculture ministry suggest that fresh harvests in Andhra Pradesh would provide some boost to supplies before the Karnataka and Maharashtra harvests hit the market by the end of September. Until then,prices were “expected to be stable in the higher range”.

Ministry officials on Tuesday said kharif prospects were good and prices were expected to ease. “The kharif onion seed sowing started timely in almost all the kharif onion growing states since rains started timely,therefore harvesting is expected timely,which was delayed for last two years due to delayed monsoon,” says a status note prepared by the ministry.

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