As rising onion prices continue to bring tears into the eyes of consumers, one of the biggest consignments of Afghan onions in the recent past in the form of 17 Pakistani trucks entered India through the Attari border on Thursday.
Though the consignment might not be sufficient to bring down onion prices, importers claimed that it might bring some relief in the local markets.
After Pakistan turned down India's request, importers asked Afghanistan for onion import. Afghanistan agreed to it and the first truck of onions reached India on September 5. Since then, there has been regular arrival of onion but Thursday's consignment of 400 metric tonnes was biggest one to reach India in the recent past.
A leading trader and president of the Amritsar Exports Chambers of Commerce, Rajdeep Uppal said, "Ever since shortage of onion surfaced in India, we were trying to get help from the neighbouring country. After Pakistan refused to send onion to India through road route, Afghanistan came up with the help."
"Afghan onion started arriving earlier this month and on Thursday, the biggest consignment came. I have imported 5-6 trucks. On Thursday, the retail price of onion in Amritsar was around `70 per kg. Onion that has come to India will be circulated in the markets of Punjab and Delhi. As more supply pours in, it is likely that the commodity will flood markets of Jammu and other places. We expect that this will help in reducing the prices by `10-12 per kg," he added.
Since onion prices have soared again in the past few days, more relief in the form of imports is expected from Afghanistan, Uppal said, adding that, "We are hopeful that in the next few days 1,500 to 2,000 metric tonnes of onion will come to India from Afghanistan."
Manav Taneja, a clearing agent, who operates at the Attari border said, "Afghanistan is seen as a major centre as far as onion import is concerned. A lot of orders have been placed as there is shortage of onion in India. We are hopeful that once the onion import starts in full swing, the rates in Indian market will be come down."
Many other importers are also in the talks with Afghan traders over the onion deals, he claimed.
Till now, the major local supply of onion to Punjab was coming from Rajasthan, MP and Maharashtra, Taneja said, adding that now, Afghanistan can be a relief.
Meanwhile, a three-member team of Afghan exporters also arrived in India on Thursday. Gul Rahim, an Afghan exporter, said, "We have the potential of sending onion to India for three months regularly and this will definitely ease the situation. People in Afghanistan are happy that they are sending onion to India at the time of crisis."