The Centre on Tuesday decided to facilitate the import of onions from countries such Afghanistan, Egypt, Turkey and Iran as domestic prices of the vegetable surged to Rs 80 per kg. The government will take the help of its embassies in these countries for the purpose.

Prices have been rising due to supply disruptions, which the government attributed to rain and two cyclones. As imports augment domestic supplies, prices are expected to reduce.

The decision was taken in a meeting held by an inter-ministerial committee to discuss the prices and availability of onions. The supplies are expected to improve in the coming days, the Ministry of Consumer Affairs said in a press release.

During the meeting, the government also decided to relax fumigation norms for imports. Onion imports are allowed inside India only after fumigation with methyl bromide, a process for which importers pay huge charges at Indian ports.

The decision is expected to facilitate the immediate import of 80 containers and the diversion of 100 containers in high seas to India, the ministry said.

Other decisions taken at the meeting include a direction to the National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation of India to supply the maximum possible quantities of onions to the Delhi government and Mother Dairy for retail purposes. A team from the federation will go to Nashik in Maharashtra, a key producing region, to take stock of the situation there and facilitate movement of supplies to key consuming regions such as Delhi.

The government said two inter-ministerial teams will be sent on Wednesday and Thursday to Karnataka and Rajasthan to take stock of their onion supplies too.

Onion prices have remained high in most retail markets of Delhi and other consuming states for more than a month, PTI reported. The price was Rs 80 a kg in Delhi on Tuesday, Rs 70 per kg in Chennai and Kolkata and Rs 50 per kg in Chennai, data from the Consumer Affairs Ministry showed.

The government has taken measures to help onion prices cool down in recent weeks, but prices remain high. On September 29, the Centre prohibited the export of all varieties of onions with immediate effect in an effort to rein in prices.

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