India has issued an import tender for onions to tide over a crippling shortage of the vegetable staple that has contributed to persistent food inflation and brought scathing political criticism about the government's food management.
National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation of India (NAFED) said in a statement that it was interested in buying onions from Pakistan, Iran, China and Egypt, without specifying any quantity or mentioning any purchase price.
Private companies would be allowed to import the vegetable on behalf of NAFED, the main distributor in the domestic market, and later reimbursed their costs as well paid a fee, he added.
The price of a kilogram of onions has more than quadrupled from last year to a record 90 rupees-100 rupees ($1.48-$1.65), despite government predictions that prices would drop following good monsoon rains.
Some imports of the vegetable have been already made from China, Egypt and Pakistan in the last three to four months after heavy rains washed out large portions of the crop in northern and western India.
India is one of the largest producers of onions in the world and is usually a net exporter.