The agriculture ministry on Friday further extended relaxed fumigation norms for imported onions till January 31 in a bid to improve domestic supply and check prices that are ruling above Rs 100 per kg in many cities. The second extension has been given as most of the onion shipments are expected to arrive by next month.
Currently, state-run MMTC is importing onion on the behalf of the government which has decided to buy 1.2 lakh tonnes from the overseas market to increase domestic supplies. The government is also facilitating private imports as well.
MMTC has contracted to import about 30,000 tonnes of onions so far. Of this, 12,660 tonnes will reach India from December 27 onwards. The agency has been asked to issue fresh tenders for additional 15,000 tonnes of onions.
"The competent authority has extended the relaxation of additional inspection fee on fumigation treatment conditions and endorsement of additional declaration in the phytosanitary certificate for import of onions till January 31, 2020," the ministry said in its latest order.
On November 6, the ministry had liberalised fumigation provisions and additional inspection fee under the Plant Quarantine (PQ) Order, 2003 till November 30 and it was later extended till December 31.
Onion prices have risen by 81 percent in the last one month and are ruling above the Rs 100 per kg mark for the second week in a row, as government efforts to cool the rates seem to be taking more time than expected.
Onion prices have skyrocketed as domestic production in Kharif and late-kharif seasons (summer-sown) is estimated to have declined by 22 percent.
The government has been maintaining that it has taken all possible steps to rein in prices such as allowing imports, imposing a ban on exports and putting restrictions on quantities of onions to be stocked by retailers and wholesalers.
Under the relaxed fumigation norms, traders who have imported onions without fumigation or having the endorsement of such treatment on the phytosanitary certificate (PSC) will be allowed to fumigate in India through an accredited treatment provider.
The consignment will be inspected thoroughly by quarantine officials and released only if found free from pests and diseases of concern to India.
Also, such consignments of onions will not be subjected to the four times additional inspection fees on account of non-compliance of conditions under the 2003 PQ Order.
Currently, imported onions are allowed in the country after the commodity is fumigated with methyl bromide and certified by the exporting nation. Importers are required to pay huge charges if found non-compliant with this provision.