India to ban Onion exports

India has announced that there will be a ban on onion exports indefinitely – a surprise move that comes ahead of a general election and is set to exacerbate high prices in some overseas markets.

Imposed by India – the world’s biggest exporter of onions – in December, the ban was due to expire on March 31.
Traders had anticipated it would be lifted as local prices have more than halved since the export restrictions were implemented and this season’s crop is yielding fresh supplies.

However, the government issued an order late on Friday that the ban will remain in place until further notice.

Onion prices in some wholesale markets in Maharashtra, the biggest onion-producing state, have fallen to 1,200 Indian rupees ($14) per 100 kg from 4,500 rupees in December, according to experts.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is seeking a record-equalling third straight term in upcoming elections that will be held over almost seven weeks from April 19.
Countries such as Bangladesh, Malaysia, Nepal and the United Arab Emirates rely on imports from India to fill domestic gaps in onion supply and many of those nations have struggled with high prices since the ban.

Traders estimate that India, which has shorter shipment times than rivals such as China or Egypt for many markets, accounts for more than half of all onion imports by Asian countries.

India exported a record 2.5 million metric tons of onions last year.