Onion price in the city's wholesale markets remained almost unchanged on Saturday compared to Friday’s amid fall in sale after the government’s announcement to import it from different countries on an emergency basis but it continued to soar in retail markets.
Talking to UNB correspondents, onion traders said the number of buyers have come down while the price at wholesale markets remained unchanged after the government announced to import it from Egypt and other countries by cargo planes.
Mohammed Abu Bakar Siddique Ali, a wholesaler at Karwan Bazar, told UNB that he sold onion at Tk 220 to TK 230 per kg on Friday night but he has been selling it at Tk 220 per kg since Saturday morning.
Another wholesaler, Hridoy, at the same market said the wholesale price remained the same what it was on Friday. “The onion price will sharply fall once the imported one reaches the market,” he added.
Talking to UNB, some consumers said an artificial crisis has been created by syndicates of importers and various groups.
They also alleged that the price is soaring every day as the government has failed to take proper steps for monitoring the market in due time.
According to data provided by the Trading Corporation of Bangladesh (TCB), (Nov 16, 2019), the local variety of onion was selling at Tk 220-230 per kg while the imported one at Tk 210-220. The local variety was sold at Tk 85 -95 while the imported one at Tk90-100 barely a month ago, the data revealed.
Ripon Mia, a shopkeeper in Bangshal area of Old Dhaka, told UNB on Saturday morning that they were selling local onion at Tk 260 per kg. “We’ve to buy onion at higher prices from wholesalers and we’ve no option but to sell it at exorbitant prices, too,” he added.
Humayun Kabir, another retailer at Kaptanbazar, said they were selling onion imported from Myanmar at Tk 240 per kg. “I don’t sell the local one due to the excessive prices.”
Al Amin, another trader in Moghbazar area, said they were selling the Myanmar variety at Tk 220-240 and the Egyptian one at Tk 180-200 per kg.
Md Shamsur Rahman, a wholesaler at Shymabazar in the capital, told UNB that the onion market has become volatile because the government did not take proper steps in due time.
“There’s a demand for around 30 lakh tonnes of onion in the country. Our local production is not enough to meet the demand. So, we’ve to fulfill the demand with the import one. And the crisis has escalated when India banned onion export to Bangladesh,” he said.
Contacted, SM Nazer Hossain, vice-president of Consumers Association of Bangladesh (CAB), said retailers and wholesalers are taking advantage of the situation.
“If the government had taken steps earlier monitoring the overall market then such a situation wouldn’t have created. It’s a matter of regret that rotten onions are being thrown into rivers. These onions had been hoarded in warehouses but detectives didn’t monitor it properly,” he added.
Amid the worsening situation, onions are being flown to Bangladesh from Turkey, Egypt, Afghanistan and the UAE on an emergency basis at the initiative of the Commerce Ministry to cool down the overheated market.
The TBC is importing onion from Turkey, while S Alam Group from Egypt and several other companies from Afghanistan and the UAE, according to a PID handout issued Friday.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina today (Saturday) said the government has taken initiatives to import onions through cargo planes to bring down the price.
"To minimise the problem, we’re importing onion through cargo planes. The onion-laden planes will land in the country either tomorrow or day after tomorrow," she said.
“They pounced on me almost every single night. I fainted at times but they didn’t stop. They’d beat me up if I protested” – this is how Bangladeshi worker Sumi Akter, who returned from Saudi Arabia after five and a half months, described her ordeal.
“I went there for work but why was I subjected to such inhuman physical and sexual torture?” she asked.
Sumi, daughter of day-labourer Md Rafiqul Islam of Panchagarh’s Boda Upazila, went to the kingdom as a domestic help on May 30.
She said her husband, Nurul Islam, instigated her to go to Saudi Arabia as a domestic help.
Her employer started physical and sexual torture on her seven days into her job. She learned from one of her buyers Kafil that she had been sold to him at Tk 4 lakh.
Sumi, who studied up to grade eight, came to Dhaka like many young women to work in the country’s thriving readymade garment sector. She met Nurul there and within six months, they were married.
Nurul sent her to Saudi Arabia through 'Ruposhi Bangla Overseas'. Her first employer regularly tortured her. When she fell ill, the man sold her to another person in the bordering area of Yemen for at SAR 22,000. The new ‘buyer’ was no different.
“I was confined to a house for around 15 day before I was rescued. They didn’t give me enough to eat. I cried a lot and begged them to allow me to speak with my husband. They gave me a phone at last and I recorded my ordeal there and sent the clip to my husband,” she said.
Nurul shared the video on social media which later went viral. She was seen asking for help. “Please take me back. They’ll kill me. I want to return to my children and family. I’ll be killed if I stay here for some more days,” she is heard saying.
Nurul filed a general diary with Paltan Police Station in this regard and lodged a complaint with the Bureau of Manpower, Employment and Training on October 22.
Besides, he submitted an application to Brac’s migration programme on October 27 seeking their help to bring back his wife safely. Later, with the help of Brac, he lodged a complaint with Expatriates' Welfare and Overseas Employment Ministry.
Responding to the complaint, Bangladesh consulate in Jeddah rescued Sumi with the help of Saudi police.
She was brought back on Friday morning. An Air Arabia flight carrying her landed at Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport at 7:15am where Director of Wage Earners’ Welfare Board Md Jahirul Islam received her.
Sumi thanked everyone, particularly Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, adding that she probably would not have returned home without her help.
Her father, Rafiqul Islam, said she had gone to Saudi Arabia in the hope of better days but they could not imagine that she would face inhuman torture there. He thanked all who helped to bring her home.
Her mother said they could not sleep after watching the video of her daughter. “My child has returned home. I don’t want anything else,” said Mollika Begum.
An artificial crisis created by syndicates of importers and various groups in different areas is behind the unusual hike in onion prices which reached Tk 220 in the capital’s markets on Friday, traders alleged.
Traders said it would take 30 to 45 more days for locally-produced onion to enter the markets as cyclone ‘Bulbul’, hailstorms and heavy rains damaged the crop.
Prices of onion – a key ingredient in Bangladeshi kitchen – started soaring after India banned its export on September 29. The following day, onion cost about Tk 47 more per kg.
The government acted swiftly to initiate Open Market Sale programme to curb price hike and help fixed-income group people buy onion at lower rate.
Onion price kept rising despite the steps of Trading Corporation of Bangladesh. The Commerce Ministry on October 28 said the market will cool down after consignments of onions from Egypt and Turkey arrive.
But that assurance had no impact on the market as prices continued to soar amid import from Myanmar as an alternative source.
Almas Hossain, a wholesaler at Shyambazar, told UNB that onion prices may increase further if the government does not take immediate steps.
“The government should hold talks with India,” he added.
Almas said it takes 20-25 to import onion from Egypt, 10-15 days from Pakistan, and 2-5 days from Myanmar where it takes only one or two days to bring onion from India.
“Onions rot if it takes long to import. So, importing from India is best for us,” he added.
Wholesaler Md Shamsur Rahman of Kaptan Bazar told UNB that the onion market is unstable because the government did not take proper steps earlier.
“Today, we’re selling local onion at Tk 220 per kg, Myanmar’s onion at Tk 200, and Egyptian onion at Tk 180-190,” he said, adding that onion shortage in the market is the main reason for price hike.
Jannatul Ferdous Jafe, a resident of Jatrabari area, said, “Now we’re using a single onion for curry where we used over 250 grams earlier.”
Md Siddique Ali Abu Bakar, a trader of Karwan Bazar wholesale market told UNB that they sold onion at Tk 220 per kg on Friday.
“The price might rise up to Tk 240 per kg tomorrow (Saturday) as it has already increased in Pabna today (Friday). The wholesale price of onion was Tk 180 to Tk 190 per kg on Thursday. The price has gone up as the demand is much higher than the supply,” Siddique added.
Md Alamgir Hossain, a wholesaler at Karwan Bazar, told UNB that he sold local variety of onion at Tk 190 per kg on Thursday.
“The price will rise further,” he added.
Minhajul Islam, a film director, told UNB that he bought one kilogram onion at Tk 230 from Kuril kitchen market.
Alauddin, a senior officer of a private bank, said he bought onion from Mirpur-1 Prince Bazar at Tk 225 per kg.
Commerce Secretary Dr Jafar Uddin on Thursday said onion price will not decline before the first week of December.
“It’ll take 30-45 days for locally produced onion to hit the wholesale markets,” said Ridoy, a wholesaler of Karwan Bazar.
Another trader, declining to be named, told UNB that several syndicates of importers and groups in several areas are creating artificial crisis to take advantage of the ban imposed by India.
“Onion prices will continue to soar unless the government intervenes,” the trader said.
The cyclone Bulbul that wreaked havoc in the country’s coastal districts in the early hours of Sunday damaged 4,589 trees, including Sundari, in the Sundarbans, the world's largest mangrove forest and a Unesco world heritage site.
The authorities concerned of the Sundarbans East and West zone have assessed the losses separately caused by the cyclone in the Sundarbans and submitted their reports to the divisional Forest Department on Thursday.
Mohammad Moinuddin Khan, Forest Conservator of Khulna region, said the east and west zones of the Sundarbans were asked to submit a list of the losses in the forest after the devastating cyclone.
After visiting different parts of the forest, the Divisional Forest Officials (DFOs) submitted a list of damaged trees and other infrastructures but wild animals did not suffer any harm, he said.
According to the information given by the DFOs, some 4,589 trees worth Tk 50.35 lakh were uprooted while infrastructures worth Tk 62.85 lakh got damaged.
Bashirul Al Mamun, DFO west zone, said some 4,002 trees were damaged during the storm and 874 of them are Sundari and 1,534 Geoa trees.
DFO Mahmudul Hasan of Sundarbans East zone, said a total of 587 trees worth Tk 8,62,742 were damaged by the cyclonic storm.
Besides, water vessels and other infrastructures worth Tk 39.60 lakh were damaged by Bulbul, he said.
Dr Mahmud Hossain, professor of Forestry and Wood Technology Discipline of Khulna University, said “The Sundarbans acted as a protector during many natural disasters from 1584 to 2019 when it faced 74 big natural disasters.”
He stressed the need for protecting the mangrove forest to keep the coastal areas safe from any natural disaster.
Twelve years ago, another much stronger cyclone, 'Sidr', took a similar path to ‘Bulbul’ that ripped through the coastal districts, including Bagerhat.
On November 15, 2007, the super cyclone left a trail of destruction in the coastal region, battering villages after villages and destroying embankments along the rivers, including the Baleshwar.
However, a durable embankment is yet to be constructed along the Baleshwar River to protect locals from natural calamities, including cyclonic storms and tidal surges.
The nightmarish memories of the devastating cyclone still haunt the coastal residents, especially those in Sharankhola upazila here, who lost their beloved ones as well as the belongings in the cyclone.
The tidal surges during the storm shattered the embankment along the Baleshwar River before inundating villages after villages in the coastal areas.
In 2016, a Tk 696-crore project was taken to construct a 62-km durable embankment along the river in Sadar, Sharankhola, Morelganj and Rampal upazilas of Bagerhat and Dacope of Khulna district.
During a recent visit to the Bogi portion of dyke in Sharankhola, this correspondent found that work on the embankment which began four years ago is yet to complete.
About 70 percent work has been done and it will take one more year to complete the work, said sources.
However, locals fear that the work might not be completed within the extended time.
Over a two-km stretch from Gabtala to Bogi went into the river over all these years while some more points are at the risk of being devoured by the river anytime soon.
Shyamol Kumar Dutta, supervising engineer for the embankment project, said the construction of the 62-km durable embankment started on January 26, 2016.
The work was supposed to be completed by January 2019 but the time was extended till June, 2020.
The 62-km embankment was later curtailed to a 52-km one as the rest 10-km road was deducted which was under the Local Government Engineering Department (LGED) in between Sharankhola and Morelganj upazilas.
“The embankment will be an international standard one,” he claimed.
Md Ashraful Alam, executive engineer of the project, said work on 40 kms of the embankment has been completed while work on another five-km portion of the dyke is going on and that on another seven kilometres in Rayenda and Bogi will start soon.
He said they have sent a proposal for acquiring six acres of land in Bogi area and work will start there once the land is acquired.
The World Bank is financing the Tk 696-crore project, Ashraful said.
He also said they will reconstruct the damaged sluice gates, excavate rivers unde the project.
Nahid-Uz-Zaman, executive engineer of Bagerhat Water Development Board (WDB), said they have taken a project to train the Baleshwar River to make the embankment durable.
Visiting Bogi area, Bagerhat Deputy Commissioner Md Mamunur Rashid said the people here suffer frequently due to various disasters, including cyclone and tidal surge.
Babul Hawlader, 45, of Bogi village said he sent his wife and children to a shelter centre and stayed back home alone on the night when cyclone ‘Bulbul’ hit the coastal districts in the early hours of November 10. “My house was flooded following ebb tide and I survived holding a tree on the embankment.”
He also said the Baleshwar River ate way his two bighas of his land.
Babul said he is frustrated as the embankment is being constructed leaving his house vulnerable to the river erosion.
President of Gabtala Ashar Alo mosque-cum-cyclone centre Abdul Barek Hawlader said the Baleshwar River is now approaching the mosque to devour it. “If a durable embankment is not built as soon as possible, the cyclone shelter will also go to the river,” he added.
Md Mozammel Hossain, Southkhali union parishad chairman, said residents of his union have been losing their homesteads and land to the river frequently.
He urged the authorities to train the river first and later construct the embankment.
Some 908 people were killed and 76 others went missing in the district during cyclonic storm Sidr that lashed the coastal districts on November 15, 2007. Some 1,627 square kilometres of areas were destroyed while 65,000 houses were damaged by the cyclone.