Agriculture minister SharadPawar today said onion prices will ease in the next two-three weeks as fresh output arrives from Maharashtra and other states, providing relief to consumers.
"After talking to farmers and traders, my own assessment is that arrival of new kharif crop will increase substantially in next two-three weeks and prices will come down," Pawar told PTI in an interview.
Supplies are also likely to improve as small quantities
of imported onions have arrived, while outward shipments have slowed after a minimum export price was reimposed, he said.
Pawar, the leader of the Nationalist Congress Party, said
his party was not responsible for hoarding in Maharashtra, the largest onion-growing state, which stores the maximum crop to cater to lean periods.
Onion prices have shot up sharply in both wholesale and retail markets across the country. In the national capital, the retail price of onions is currently as high as Rs 70-80 per kg compared with Rs 22 per kg a year earlier.
Pawar said the rise in onion prices has contributed to
inflation, while prices of other food items such as rice and wheat have been stable.
Stating that onion prices are under pressure now due to heavy rains, Pawar said, "Harvesting of early kharif crop in Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka has begun, but rains have caused transporation problem."
Similarly, in the Nasik belt of Maharashtra, farmers are facing harvesting problems due to rains.
Pawar, who also held discussions with Consumer Affairs Minister K V Thomas, said the arrival of new kharif crop, which normally starts in the October-November period in Maharashtra and other states, will improve the supply and price situation in the next two-three weeks.
Commenting on reports that blamed the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) for hoarding onions in Maharashtra, Pawar said: "How can NCP be responsible for hoarding? It is a foolish statement. NCP people are elected on the agriculture produce marketing committee, which has the job of looking into arrivals and auctioning." On the current supply of onions, he said, "By and large, arrival of onions is normal in Nasik and Pune in Maharashtra, Davanagere in Karnataka, Indore in Madhya Pradesh and Delhi."
Thomas said there is not much difference in the arrivals of onions in various markets at present compared with earlier this month. "Arrivals of onions are good. Our calculation is that prices will come down by end of this month or early next month," he told PTI after meeting Pawar on this issue.
The minister said that farmers are holding stock in Maharashtra, which has a better storage capacity, in anticipation of better prices. However, state governments have been directed to take action against hoarders, he added.