Chennai: While onion prices have been going through the roof and had hit Rs 100 a kg in some markets, 63 per cent of the onions kept in the government’s buffer stock had to be wasted as it became unusable. This is as huge as 36,334 tonnes.
In a monthly update, the Department of Consumer Affairs said that “as on October 30, 2019, 20,965 metric tonnes of onion has been disposed out of the buffer stock of 57,299 metric tonnes of onions, while the rest is unfit for human consumption/ weight loss”.
That means, out of the buffer stock of 57,299 tonnes, 36,334 tonnes of onion were found to be unfit for human consumption. This is 63.4 per cent of the total stock. However, the ministry had claimed last week that only 25 per cent of the stock was rotten.
In the first week of November, Union Food and Consumer Affairs Minister Ram Vilas Paswan said that much of the onions from the buffer stock of 57,000 tonnes has been disposed off, while 25 per cent of it has been rotten due to the short shelf life of the commodity. Still, 1,525 tonnes is left in the central buffer stock, he had said.
“This is a huge quantity, especially when we have such a shortfall and price rise in onion. While we do not know how these onions became unfit for human consumption, the government should have taken steps to preserve it or dispose off before they became unusable,” said an agri exporter.
Onions have a short shelf-life. “Even when they are exported in containers, they lose their moisture and become unfit for consumption in two weeks,” he added.
Meanwhile, the government has announced its plan to import one lakh tonnes of onion to control the price rise.
The onion will be imported by MMTC and supplied by Nafed across the country between November 15 and December 15.
“By taking care of the buffer stock and disposing of on time, we could have lowered the import quantum considerably. Nafed could have very well distributed the buffer stock on time and brought down the prices,” an expert said.
Moreover, it will take around one month to distribute the imported onion and till then prices will remain high.
The prices have been going up since September.
While the ministry had termed that the prices had risen due to flood-triggered disruption in Maharashtra and Karnataka, several reports found that farmers in some parts of the country were dumping onions on the roads due to unsustainably low prices.