New Delhi: The government on Wednesday relaxed the import norms for onions to boost domestic supply and check the incessant prices that have been rising since late August due to the COVID-infused lockdown, followed by rains. The government is also expected to offload more onions from the buffer stock in the coming days to reduce the retail prices of the key kitchen staple.Also Read - Buy Clothes Worth Rs 1000, Get 1 Kg Onions Free At This Garment Shop in Thane

The prices of onion have especially seen a spike in the past 10 days by Rs 11.56/kg taking the all-India retail price of the commodity to Rs 51.95/kg, which was 12.13 per cent higher than the last year’s price of Rs 46.33/kg. Also Read - Never Even Tasted Onion, How will a Person Like me Know About Their Prices: Union Minister Backs Sitharaman | WATCH

As a result, the ministry decided to facilitate import, relaxed norms and instructed the relevant countries to contact the traders to push for greater onion imports to the country. Also Read - Unique Protest! Varanasi Shops Give Onions on Loan by Keeping Aadhaar Card as Mortgage

Why did onion prices go up?

According to the government, heavy rainfall was the main reason behind the sharp increase in onion prices that had settled at a reasonable rate since October last year. The prolonged monsoon in onion growing districts in Maharashtra, Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh led to widespread crop damage. It has led to the loss of nearly a million tonne Kharif onions in Maharashtra alone.

As per the latest rates, onion prices have touched Rs 100 per kg in Chennai and Kerala from Rs 40-50 last week. Prices have gone up in Pune, Guwahati and Patna to Rs 60-70 per kg, while in Andhra Pradesh, the kitchen staple is being sold at Rs 75-80 a kg.

What is the government doing to change this?

The government has decided to release onions from the buffer stock in a calibrated manner from the second half of September 2020 to major mandis, retail suppliers such as Safal, Kendriya Bhandar, and NCCF as well as state governments.

The government has also relaxed “the conditions for fumigation and additional declaration on Phytosanitary Certificate (PSC) under the Plant Quarantine Order (PQ), 2003 for import up to December 15, 2020,” a statement read.

Last month, the government had also taken a “pre-emptive measure” to announce a ban on onion export to ensure availability to the domestic consumers at reasonable rates during the lean season before the Kharif onion arrival.

Such consignments of imported onions, which arrive at Indian ports without fumigation and endorsement to that effect on the PSC, would be fumigated in India by the importer through an accredited treatment provider.

What to expect in the coming months?

People in the business have said that onion prices may go up as high as Rs 120 per kg as its production has been affected in most of the key states. This is likely to continue till February net year till the new crop season arrives.

The current crisis of onion prices is expected to reach a ‘glut effect’ by March 2020, the government assessed, when the Kharif season is fully harvested and with the arrival of Rabi.

The government said it was constantly monitoring the prices and stock and will resort to importing onions if needed.