As onion prices touched Rs70 a kilogram on Tuesday, the highest in eight years according to traders, the state government initiated emergency measures to bring down the soaring prices.
“We have received about 8,000 tonnes of onions from Pakistan today. Hopefully that will meet the demand-supply gap and reduce prices,” agriculture minister Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil said, adding that he has been coordinating with the Union agriculture ministry on the issue.
“Not much is within the state’s purview but I have ordered district officials to ensure that there is no hoarding of onions to prevent problems of artificial scarcity,” Vikhe-Patil said. “However, with the state losing 87% of the onion crop to rains, I think we need to wait for the next crop in March.”
He said in case of a scarcity of onions, Maharashtra usually depends on the neighbouring state of Karnataka, but they too are facing a similar problem.
“We have also asked for onions from Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat but that will take three weeks to come in,” he said.
The situation in the market seemed grim. Officials in the Agriculture Produce Market Committee (APMC) market at Vashi indicated that onion prices will rise further. “There will be a further rise of 10% to 20% in the prices of onions in the coming weeks,” APMC director, Ashok Walunj, said. “All the common man can do is to wait until January-end. We will then get onions from the new crop in Pune and the supply position will improve to some extent.”
Ashok Karpe, a wholesaler at the APMC market, said: “The government’s decision to ban export of onions will have a marginal effect of Rs5 to Rs10 a kg. Mostly, only small onions are exported. Anyway, there is very little stock to even export.”
A section of traders, however, felt prices could start reducing in the wholesale market from Wednesday once the stock from Pakistan arrives. Some traders said panic buying has also led to a rise in prices and that the rates will be under control in 10 days.