March 4, 2014

Govt removes restrictions on onion minimum export price

The Government on Tuesday removed restrictions on onion exports by doing  away with the minimum export price (MEP), a move aimed at boosting shipments. "Requirement of MEP on export of onions stands removed," Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT) said in a notification on Tuesday.

In December 2013, the MEP was reduced to USD 150 per tonne.  The government had imposed MEP on onion in September 2013 and then it was raised several times to curb exports and boost domestic supplies as retail prices had shot up as high as Rs 100 per kg in major parts of the country. The country had to even import onion to control price rise.
MEP reduction has helped in checking exports, which fell to 11 lakh tonnes (LT) during April-January period of this fiscal against 18.22 LT in the same period in 2012-13.  India produces around 17-18 million tonnes of onion a year. It is an essential kitchen staple and also a politically sensitive commodity.
Sharp reduction in onion prices have led to removal of MEP. The retail price currently ranged between Rs 15-20 per kg in the national capital. With wholesale prices declining sharply due to bumper crop, farmers in producing states like Maharashtra have been protesting with demand for removal of export restrictions.
The onion (Allium cepa) also known as the bulb onion or common onion, is used as a vegetable and is the most widely cultivated species of the genus Allium. This genus also contains several other species variously referred to as onions and cultivated for food, such as the Japanese bunching onion (A. fistulosum), the Egyptian onion and the Canada onion (A. canadense). The name "wild onion" is applied to a number of Allium species but A. cepa is exclusively known from cultivation and its wild original form is not known. The onion is most frequently a biennial or a perennial plant, but is usually treated as an annual and harvested in its first growing season.
Most onion cultivars are about 89% water, 4% sugar, 1% protein, 2% fibre and 0.1% fat. They contain vitamin C, vitamin B6, folic acid and numerous other nutrients in small amounts. They are low in fats and in sodium, and with an energy value of 166kJ (40 kcal) per 100 g (3.5 oz) serving, they can contribute their flavour to savoury dishes without raising caloric content appreciably.