Onion prices touched Rs 100 per kg in some major cities as supplies remained tight and there appears to be little respite, with Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar saying that rates will remain high for 2-3 weeks.
Refusing to ban onion exports, the Centre asked states to invoke Essential Commodities Act to crackdown on hoarders.
It, however, started the process of importing onion – via co-operative NAFED -- from Pakistan, Iran, Egypt and China to cool rates. It also relaxed the conditions for imports to augment domestic supply.
According to the data compiled by the Consumer Affairs Ministry, the average price of onion in the major 57 cities stood at Rs 70 per kg with Jammu recording highest at Rs 90 per kg.
However, as per the data available from centres, onion is being sold at Rs 100/kg in Patna and Jammu in retail markets.
In the Delhi, Jaipur, Chandigarh and Bangalore, retail prices are ruling at Rs 80-90 per kg. Onions are available in the range of Rs 60-80 in Mumbai, Bhopal, Lucknow, Chennai, Guwahati, Srinagar, Imphal and Kolkata.
"...next two to three weeks will be tough and ultimately we have to find a solution," Sharad Pawar said in Bangalore replying to a query on onion prices that reached all-time high.
Asked whether he meant that the onion prices would come down in the next 2-3 weeks, he said: "No, no. I am not an astrologer.
But I know something about crops. On my own assessment, this situation will continue for the next two to three weeks."
Sharad Pawar asked the chief ministers of all states to invoke the Essential Commodities Act against onion hoarders. He said the NAFED is ready to import some quantity of the kitchen staple.
Stating that extensive rainfall has hit supply, Pawar said: "We have to import as early as possible. I have instructed the Managing Director of NAFED (that) if there is a request from any state, we should be ready."
"Fortunately, there is ample onion (stock) available in China, Egypt and neighbouring countries and (I) have collected figures and prices yesterday. The prices in these countries are cheaper compared to India," Sharad Pawar added.