Govt slashes onion export price to $275 a tonne

This is the third time it has lowered the export price since lifting the ban on exports last month

New Delhi: The government has slashed the minimum export price for onions to $275 a tonne from the previous $350 a tonne. This is the third time in a month that the minimum export price has be lowered.

"The minimum export price (MEP) for onions other than Bangalore Rose onions and Krishnapuram onions will be $275 per metric tonne FOB (freight-on-board)," the Directorate General of Foreign Trade stated in a notification today.

On 1st March, the government lowered the MEP from $600 a tonne to $450 a tonne, and again on 8th March to $350 a tonne. This was after it had withdrawn the ban on exports

Last month, the government lifted a ban on onion exports that was imposed to curb the extraordinary price rise after onion crop was destroyed in unseasonal rain.  But it pegged the export price at a high $600 a tonne to minimise the quantity of exports, towards checking domestic prices. The MEP for Bangalore Rose and Krishnapuram onions was $1,400 per tonne.

Onion production in the country is likely to be around 10.5 million tonnes in 2010-11, down from 12 million tonnes last year.


Japan calamity to impact auto component supplies: M&M

While the recent devastating earthquake and tsunami will have an impact on the automobile component industry, M&M sales are not likely to be affected, the company's automotive division president Pawan Goenka said

Mumbai: Auto major, Mahindra & Mahindra (M&M) today said there would be an impact on auto component supplies this month due to the calamity in Japan but it will not impact the sales of the company, reports PTI.

"Yes, imports of some automobile components from Japan are likely be affected this month (March) because of the recent earthquake and tsunami in Japan. But I do not think it (Japan situation) will have an impact on the sales of our company," M&M Automotive president, Pawan Goenka, told reporters here.

The Japan earthquake and tsunami have been devastating for the automobile industry and also hit the component supply industry.

Mr Goenka, who has been appointed as chairman of South Korea's Ssangyong Motor Company (SYMC) said the company plans to set up assembly unit for SYMC vehicles at Chakan near Pune by end-this year.

"We are planning to set up assembly unit for SYMC vehicles at Chakan near Pune by 2011," he said, adding the investment would be less than Rs100 crore.

Mahindra has taken control of the South Korean carmaker after buying a 70% stake in it.

M&M, which emerged as the preferred bidder for SsangYong in August 2010, will now hold a 70% stake in SYMC, for which it has shelled out $463-million (about Rs2,105 crore).

The company plans to launch two vehicles-the Rexton and Korando-C-in India by end-this year and also plans to set up operations of its finance arm, Mahindra Finance, in Korea to boost sales of Ssangyong.

"We will launch Rexton and Korando-C in India by 2011," he said, adding "We will send a team to Korea soon for setting up of our finance arm there."

"There are some regulatory issues to be sorted out before we can set up our finance arm there," he said.

Mr Goenka described today's rate hikes by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) as "a matter of concern" as it could affect automobile sales.

The central bank today upped both its repo and reverse repo rates by 0.25% each to 6.75% and 5.75%, respectively.

Over the last few months, carmakers have jacked-up prices of cars following a rise in input costs.

"Commodity prices have been increasing of late and now we have the Japan calamity which will affect supplies of auto components. The RBI's rate hikes coming at this time is a matter of concern," Mr Goenka said.


Finance ministry approves 9.5% interest on PF deposits for 2010-11

The finance ministry's approval is subject to the condition that any shortfall on account of payment of 9.5% rate of return would be met by making adjustments in the interest rate in 2011-12

New Delhi: The finance ministry today approved higher interest rate of 9.5% to over 4.7 crore depositors with the Employees Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO) for 2010-11, reports PTI.

The EPFO had been paying 8.5% interest on PF deposits since 2005-06. In September last year, it had recommended an increase in interest rate to 9.5% for 2010-11 after discovering Rs1,731 crore surplus in their books of accounts.

"The finance ministry has ratified 9.5% rate of return on PF deposits for 2010-11. We have received a notification in this regard," Central Provident Fund commissioner Samirendra Chatterjee told PTI.

Mr Chatterjee further added that "Our calculations regarding Rs1,731 crore surplus in the interest suspense account were found correct by the finance ministry and so they approved this higher rate of return."

The finance ministry's approval is subject to the condition that any shortfall on account of payment of 9.5% rate of return would be met by making adjustments in the interest rate in 2011-12.

Mr Chatterjee, however, said that there would be no need for making any adjustment in the next fiscal as "EPFO calculations are correct regarding the discovery of a surplus of Rs1,731 crore in the interest suspense account."

The finance ministry has also asked the EPFO to update its subscriber accounts within the next six months.

EPFO's apex decision making body-the Central Board of Trustees (CBT)-in September last year had decided to provide 9.5% rate of return on retirement savings in 2010-11 after it found a surplus of Rs1,731 crore.

Refusing to ratify the said rate of return, the finance ministry had earlier argued that the surplus shown by the ministry was not real after Comptroller and Auditor General's (CAG) report has called the EPFO's so called surplus unverifiable.

According to sources, the finance ministry approved 9.5% interest after the intervention by finance minister Pranab Mukherjee.


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