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Centre asks onion farmers not to worry about export curbs

Govt restarts procurement at Rs 2,410/quintal

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NEW DELHI, Aug 22: Consumer affairs minister Piyush Goyal on Wednesday alleged that some “political opponents” are creating a “wrong picture” about the export duty slapped on onion, and urged farmers not to worry as the Centre has restarted procurement at Rs 2,410/quintal for its buffer stock.

The minister asserted that the decision to impose a 40 per cent export duty on onion has been taken to protect the consumers’ interest, but at the same time the Centre has also decided to purchase additional 2 lakh tonnes of onion from farmers to avoid any panic selling.

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He also said the government will increase the size of the buffer stock and procure more from farmers if the need arise.

At a media briefing, Goyal announced that additional procurement of 2 lakh tonnes of onion for the buffer stock will be done at Rs 2,410 per quintal, which he said is an “historical rate” and much higher than the average Rs 1,800-1,900 per quintal the farmers normally get from exports.

“Some political opponents have been trying to present a wrong picture (about export curbs). I would urge all farmers in onion producing states not to worry and indulge in any panic selling. NCCF and NAFED have been directed to procure onion from farmers,” Goyal said.

On August 19, the central government imposed a 40 per cent export duty on onion to restrict outward shipments and boost the local availability amid apprehension about the kharif output and signs of firming of retail prices. It also decided to increase the size of the buffer stock of onion to 5 lakh tonnes for 2023-24 from the earlier 3 lakh tonnes which has already been procured.

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The decision on export duty led to protests by farmers and traders in various parts of Maharasthra, especially in Nashik district.

The National Cooperative Consumers’ Federation of India (NCCF) and the National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation of India (NAFED) have recommenced the procurement operations in Maharasthra and Madhya Pradesh from Wednesday.

“Both consumers and farmers are important for us. …The government has been taking decisions in the interest of both farmers and consumers,” he said.

The minister said the centre is constantly in touch with Maharasthra chief minister and two deputy chief ministers on this issue.

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On export shipments stuck at ports, the directorate general of Foreign Trade (DGFT) will take a call on those shipments whose bills have been generated prior to the imposition of the export duty.

In order to protect interest of consumers from rising prices, Goyal said the government has started releasing the buffer onion through NCCF and NAFED in the retail markets of Delhi-NCR at a subsidised rate of Rs 25 per kilogramme from Tuesday.

He also said sowing of kharif onion is underway and if the total coverage remains same at last year’s level, the production is expected to be better, he added.

Maharashta agriculture minister Dhananjay Munde, who was also present at the media briefing, said, “Despite imposition of export duty, the farmers will not be affected. They will get a better price for their produce and at the same time consumers will also get onion at a reasonable rates.”

Between April 1 and August 4 this fiscal, 9.75 lakh tonnes of onions have been exported from the country. The top three importing countries in value terms are Bangladesh, Malaysia and the UAE.

Consumer affairs secretary Rohit Kumar Singh, additional secretary Nidhi Khare, NCCF and NAFED officials were also present in the briefing. (PTI)

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