As onion prices have soared again in the country due to its export ban by neighbouring India, Finance Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal says his ministry will consider the withdrawal of duty on its import to keep the local market stable.
"We'll definitely consider the matter [duty withdrawal] as we did in the past," Finance Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal told reporters on Wednesday, responding to a question on withdrawal of duty on onion import.
The Finance Minister was speaking at a virtual briefing session on the outcomes of two consecutive meetings of the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs Cabinet Committee on Public Purchase.
He made the remarks when reporters drew his attention to Commerce Minister Tipu Munshi's call to the Finance Ministry to withdraw the existing duty on onion import against the backdrop of India's ban on export of the bulb to Bangladesh and other countries.
The Indian ban on onion export to Bangladesh has triggered an unusual upward trend in its prices. The onion price shot to about Tk 100 from the normal price of Tk 30 in the local market. A bulk import of such an essential item usually comes from the neighbouring country.
The Finance Minister said the government is very careful about the adequate supply of all essential commodities, not only about onions. "We, including the Prime Minister, don't expect any volatile situation of any essential commodities."
Commerce Minister Tipu Munshi on Wednesday said there is no need to panic over onion price as there is adequate stock of it.
"Our country has a demand of 1 million tonnes of onion till next season. In contrast, we've about 600,000 tonnes. There is shortage of 400,000 tonnes," he said at a press briefing on onion stocks, supply and price situation at the secretariat.
Minister Munshi said there will be a bit problem as onion import has been suddenly stopped from India. The government is trying to bring onion from other markets.
"Onion will be brought from other countries, including Turkey, Holland in the next 30 days. Then there will be no more problem," he said.
Munshi said unscrupulous traders have taken advantage of the fact as India has stopped exporting onions. Consumers are also buying more onions, which is creating panic.
"Don't panic. We'll take action against dishonest traders," he said.
Decision to import onion fromTurkey, Egypt
The government has decided to import onion from multiple sources to ensure enough supply of the popular cooking ingredient in the local markets.
In line with the decision, the government has already taken steps to import onions from Turkey and Egypt, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said.
The consignments are expected to reach Chittagong port early next month.
India on Monday prohibited the export of all varieties of onion except in cut, sliced or powdered form.
Dhaka shares its concern with Delhi
Meanwhile, Bangladesh has shared its "deep concern" with India at the sudden ban on onion exports saying it undermines the discussions that took place in October last year and January this year.
The latest "abrupt announcement" of the Indian government "undermines" the discussions that took place in 2019 and 2020 between the two friendly countries on the matter and the understanding shared, said an official at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as written to Indian High Commission in Dhaka.
Bangladesh referred to a Commerce Secretary-level meeting between the two countries held on January 15-16 and VVIP-level visit to India in October last year when the Bangladesh side requested regarding the matter.
“I wish you had informed us before suddenly putting a halt in export of onions. I had to tell my cook I have no other option but to have my food without onions. I would request India to please inform us beforehand while taking such an action. After all, we’re neighbours,” Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said in Hindi in a programme in India in October last year (according to Indian media).
The Indian High Commission has been requested to convey Bangladesh's message to the authorities concerned in India and take necessary measures to resume export of onions to Bangladesh taking into consideration the excellent ties of friendship and understanding enjoyed by the two countries, the official said.