Centre directs NAFED, NCCF to intervene in purchase of red onion

New Delhi:- The Centre has directed the National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation of India Limited (NAFED) and National Consumers Cooperative Federation of India Limited (NCCF) to immediately intervene for the purchase of red onion (Kharif) for simultaneous dispatch and sale to the consumption centres across the country, in the wake of reports of their falling prices.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare said that NAFED has swung into action and started procurement on February 24 and is reported to have purchased around 4000 MT at a rate above Rs 900/quintal from the farmers directly during the last 10 days.

It has opened 40 procurement centers where farmers can sell their stock and get their payment online. NAFED has made arrangements for movement of the stock from the purchase centres to Delhi, Kolkata, Guwahati, Bhubaneshwar, Bengaluru, Chennai, Hyderabad and Kochi.

The estimated production of onion during 2022-23 is around 318 LMT, surpassing last year’s production of 316.98 LMT. Prices remained stable due to consistency in demand and supplies as well as export potential. However, February saw a decline in prices of red onion, particularly in Maharashtra where the modal rate dropped to Rs 500-700/quintal.

The experts attributed this fall to overall increased production in other states, reducing the dependence on the supplies from the major producing district of the country, Nashik.

Onion is sown in all the states. However, Maharashtra is the leading producer with a share of around 43 per cent, followed by Madhya Pradesh (16 per cent), Karnataka and Gujarat (around 9 per cent). It is harvested thrice a year, with cropping seasons reported during Kharif, late Kharif and Rabi.

The harvest of Rabi is most important as it contributes nearly 72-75 per cent of national production and is harvested during March to May. The shelf life of Rabi harvest is highest and storeworthy whereas the Kharif and late Kharif crop is for direct consumption and not storeworthy.

The timing of the harvest of onion accrose the country provides regular supply of fresh/stored onion all over the year. But sometimes due to vagaries of weather, either the stored onion is spoiled or the sown area gets damaged, leading to supply constraints and rise in prices.

To address such challenges, the government has set up a price stabilisation fund for procurement and storage of onion as a buffer to keep the supply chain smooth during the lean seasons.