The Union government on Monday halted exports of all types of onions, predicting a supply crisis in the coming weeks as exports soared.
In the period April-July, onion exports increased by an unusual 30%, causing prices to show signs of solidification.
An announcement from the Directorate-General for Foreign Trade (DGFT) on Monday said onion exports, which had hitherto been “cheap”, were now “banned with immediate effect”. A key element of the kitchen, onions tend to experience price volatility and frequent supply.
The government had last banned onion exports on September 29, 2019, after a poorly produced corrupt crop. In December 2019, prices rose to Rs 80 per kg in the national capital. The government had lifted the ban on March 15, 2020.
Retail prices this week rose to Rs 40 a kg from Rs 30 a kg in some cities.
According to official trade data, the country exported fresh onions worth 328 million US dollars and dried onions worth 112 million US dollars in 2019-2020. Between April and July 2020, onion exports to neighboring Bangladesh increased by 157.7%.
Since bulbs are a common staple of Indian dishes and widely consumed, consumers are quite sensitive to an increase in onion prices, compared to many other commodities.
The country’s consumer or retail inflation in August rose 6.69%, slightly lower than the 6.73% recorded last month, according to government data released Monday. According to consumer price index data, food inflation in August fell marginally to 9.05%. However, headline food and beverage inflation rose to a high of 8.3% in August, Monday data showed.
“Retail inflation in the last five months has been over 6%. If retail inflation in September 2020 does not fall significantly to around 4.5%, retail inflation in the three consecutive quarters will exceed 6% and the Monetary Policy Committee (of the Reserve Bank) will have to answer to the government for the steps undertaken to keep inflation at 2 -6%, ”said Sunil Kumar Sinha, Chief Economist, India Ratings and Research in a statement. High inflation reduces the scope of the Reserve Bank of India to reduce lending rates to boost low growth.
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