The Centre on Wednesday relaxed norms on the import of onions till December 15 in view of the rising price of the vegetable. The price of onion had soared in the past 10 days by Rs 11.56 per kg to Rs 46.33, the government said.

In a statement, the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution said that it has relaxed the conditions for fumigation – a method for controlling pests – and additional declaration on the phytosanitary certificate – a certificate stating that the food items are free of pests – under the Plant Quarantine Order, 2003, for import.

The onion imported without fumigation and the phytosanitary certificate would be treated for pests in India, the ministry said. “If stem and bulbs nematode (Ditylenchus dipsaci) or onion maggot (Hylimia antiqua) is detected it would be eliminated through fumigation and the consignments to be released with no additional inspection fee,” the statement said.

The ministry also said that it had built a buffer stock from the Rabi onion and was releasing it in a calibrated manner from the second half of September to moderate the prices. The stock was being sent to various state governments, Safal, Kendriya Bhandar and the National Cooperative Consumers’ Federation of India. “More will be done in the coming days,” the statement added.

The Centre had on September 14 banned the export of all varieties of onions in a bid to bridge the demand and supply gap of the vegetable in the domestic market. The ban, however, did not apply to onions exported in sliced or in powder form. The ban had come amid a decline in wholesale price by 34.5% and retail price by 4%.

In its statement, the ministry said the ban helped moderate the prices. However, it added that the rains in major onion-producing districts of Maharashtra, Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh damaged standing Kharif crop, stored onion and seed nurseries. “These developments on the weather front have resulted in [a] sharp increase in onion prices,” the ministry added.

India exported $198 million (over Rs 1,400 crore) of onions between April and June in the financial year of 2020-’21 and $440 million (over Rs 3,200 crore) in 2019-’20. Bangladesh, Malaysia, UAE and Sri Lanka are the top importers of Indian onions.