The government will procure onions from farmers at a “historic price” of Rs 2,410 a quintal, Union minister Piyush Goyal said on Tuesday.

The minister for consumer affairs and food and public distribution, in a press conference, said that Central government agencies National Cooperative Consumers’ Federation of India and National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation of India will sell onions at a subsidised rate of Rs 25 a kilogram in areas that have reported high prices for the vegetable.

“Both consumers and farmers are valuable to us,” Goyal said.

On August 19, the Union government had imposed a 40% export duty on onions till December 31, saying that the move was aimed at boosting domestic supplies of the kitchen staple and curbing prices.

However, the announcement led to protests by farmers in Maharashtra – the country’s largest onion-producing state – as cultivators claimed that the decision would hurt their chances of getting good prices for the vegetable.

Goyal on Tuesday urged farmers to sell onions at a good price and said that there was no reason for them to worry about anything.

The minister noted that the government has increased its onion buffer target to 5 lakh metric tonnes, and that 3 lakh metric tonnes have already been procured. “Today, NCCF and NAFED have opened centres in different regions in order to buy an additional 2 lakh metric tonnes,” he said. “...If needed, this figure of 2 lakh can be increased as well, so that farmers can get the right price.”

Onion exports had climbed to 6.38 lakh metric tonnes during April-June, 26.51% higher to 5.04 lakh metric tonnes figure recorded during the same period in 2022, ministry data showed. In June this year, 2.92 lakh metric tonnes of onions was exported, 89.56% higher than 1.54 lakh metric tonnes in the same month last year.

The export duty comes at a time when India’s retail inflation jumped to a 15-month high of 7.44% in July from 4.81% a month ago due to surging food costs. The price rise indicator was 7.79% in April 2022, the highest in eight years.