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MMTC invites fresh bids for onion imports

PSU places a ceiling of $352/tonne for 2,000 tonne, even as onions in government’s buffer dry up.

, ET Bureau|
Oct 08, 2019, 07.58 AM IST
Officials said there would have been no need to import if onions in the buffer stock had been properly stored.
NEW DELHI: State-owned trading company MMTC has invited fresh bids for the import of 2,000 tonnes of onions with a price ceiling of $352 (about Rs 24,992) a tonne, at a time when 15,000 tonne of onions in the government’s buffer stock have dried up in warehouses.

The validity of the bid will be till October 17. Onions are scheduled to be delivered by the end of this month to help the government keep a check on onion prices before the new crop from Maharashtra, which produces over 35% of onions in the country, reaches the market in mid-November.

The government had invited bids for the import of 2,000 tonne onions in September also, scheduled to be delivered by the end of November.

Officials said there would have been no need to import if onions in the buffer stock had been properly stored. “Losing out 15,000 tonne during this crucial juncture is sad. It could have taken care of supply needed to supplement wherever there is shortage. Also, we would not have needed imports,” said a senior consumer affairs ministry official, who did not wish to be identified.

Consumer affairs minister Ram Vilas Paswan recently said that out of 56,000 tonne of onions stored in buffer stock, 25,000 tonne were still in the stock while around 18,000 tonne had been distributed at Rs 23.9 per kg. “Around 15,000 tonne onions have dried out (shrinkage loss) due to loss of moisture during storage,” he had said.

“Shrinkage loss is normal but it should not exceed 5-10%. Losing almost 25% from a thin buffer stock is alarming,” said an agriculture department official.

The industry has also raised questions about the timing of import and expressed scepticism over whether it would help tame prices.

“The government should have planned the import in such a way that the onions should have reached here by the end of September,” said Ajit Shah, president, Onion Exporters’ Association. “Now that crops have started arriving from Karnataka and fresh harvest from Maharashtra is coming in mid-November, supply will be reinstated, cooling down prices. The timing of imports then seems illogical.”

He said the government agency will struggle to find a bidder with the price ceiling of $352 per tonne.

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