Centre draws flak from Parliamentary panel over state of onion silos

Source: The post is based on the article “Centre draws flak from Parliamentary panel over state of onion silos” published in Down To Earth on 16th December 2022

What is the News?

Parliamentary Standing Committee on Food, Consumer Affairs and Public Distribution has submitted a report on the state of Onions supply in India.

Why does the price of onions fluctuate in India?

India needs on average about 13 lakh tonnes of onion every month for domestic consumption. However, the crop is not harvested every calendar month. 

There are three sowing seasons for the onion crop in India – Kharif, late Kharif and Rabi. The share of these three seasons in total onion production is Rabi – 70%, Kharif – 20%, and late Kharif – 10%.

So, the Rabi onion crop is the mainstay of India. Normally, the price of the onion is lower during these months due to greater supply.

It is critical for India to successfully store rabi onions to maintain its market supply during lean months. Additionally, scientific management of onion production in all three seasons is also essential in augmenting regular supply.

However, if the area coverage of the Rabi crop is smaller due to non-availability or limited availability of irrigation water or if the crop is damaged due to hailstorms and pre-monsoon rains, production will be lower as will be the storage. In that case, the prices rise right from August till the next harvest.

What are the observations made by the Parliamentary Panel on Onion Shortage?

Around 51,583 million tonnes (MT) of onion had been damaged due to spoilage in the last three years.

The price of onions mounted too high during the recent months and such damage reflected poor management on the part of the Department of Consumer Affairs.

Onions are still traditionally stored in open-ventilated chawls while the development of modern scientific technology is still in the experimental stage.

Hence, it urged the Department to take due care for proper storage of onions so as to refrain from price fluctuation and to prevent black-marketing. This was also to be done keeping in view the vast procurement of onion (~250,000 MT).

What are the steps the government is taking to address Onion Shortage?

Onions from the buffer are being released in a targeted and calibrated manner to stabilize prices at local as well as national levels.

To develop technologies for the primary processing, storage and valorisation of onion, the Department has initiated a hackathon. The hackathon would cover comprehensive solutions like improvement in the design of Kandha Chawls, pre-harvest care, primary processing such as drying, etc.

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