**New Delhi: ** Despite taking measures such as procurement from local markets, boosting imports and discouraging export of onions, the Central government on Wednesday expressed its helplessness in controlling the rising prices of the essential commodity.
Union Food Minister Ram Vilas Paswan said the onion yield this year was expected to be lower since the area under onion cultivation had come down to 1.90 lakh hectares in 2017-18 from 2.65 lakh hectares in 2016-17.
“We have taken several measures, like procurement by agencies from areas such as Nashik (Maharashtra) and Alwar (Rajasthan) where the cost is lower, as well as import of onions. But it (bringing down prices) is not in our hands,” Paswan told reporters here.
While the Ministry’s data showed average prices of onion and tomato in Delhi ranged between Rs 53 and Rs 63 per kg, these were being sold for up to Rs 80 in retail markets.
Once the supply from (late) kharif starts, prices may come down, he added.
Paswan held a meeting with officials from the Ministries of Agriculture and Food as well as the Delhi government on Wednesday on the rising prices of onions and tomatoes.
Prices are low at one corner of the country while they are high at the other, he said.
“We are trying to figure out how onion from areas where prices are lower can be transported to Delhi,” he said.
On October 31, Paswan had blamed hoarding for a surge in the prices of onions and tomatoes in retail markets, and promised that the situation will improve once the fresh supply began.
Paswan added the onion output was 189 lakh tonnes in 2014-15, 209 lakh tonnes in 2015-16 and 217 lakh tonnes in 2016-17.
“However, the Agriculture Ministry has not yet provided information about the output this year. It is likely to come in January,” he said.
The National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation has been asked to procure onions from Nashik, Alwar where prices are lower, about Rs 28-32 per kg.
It has procured approximately 1,000 tonnes of onions so far, said Avinash Srivastava, Consumer Affairs Secretary.
The Ministry has also asked public sector body Metals and Minerals Trading Corporation of India to import 2,000 tonnes of onions. However, this can only be used after a month as imported onions come in cold storage and need to be brought to room temperature.
Paswan said an increase in the Minimum Export Price (MEP) had brought down onion exports.
“On November 23, 4,159 tonnes of onion was exported. However, the export reduced to just 137 tonnes on November 23, after the MEP was set at $835 per tonne,” he said.