Bangladesh’s onion markets take the heat from India’s export ban
Publish- September 16, 2020, 12:06 AM
Rafikul Islam - UNB Staff Writer
A day after the Indian government restricted the export of all varieties of onion, the prices of the popular kitchen item have almost doubled in Dhaka’s kitchen markets.
“The export of all varieties of onion is prohibited with immediate effect,” according to a notification of the Indian Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT) released on Monday.
Talking to UNB, consumers alleged that unscrupulous businesses have increased the prices after the decision by India as it has been the main source of onion import for Bangladesh.
Habibur Rahman, a resident of Bangshal in Old Dhaka, said he bought one kg imported onion at Tk 80 on Tuesday which was Tk 40 on Sunday. Local onions are selling at Tk100 per kg, he added.
“When India made the announcement, unscrupulous traders here grabbed the chance to raise the prices to make a quick buck. Last year, the traders had also raised the prices irrationally. So, the public had to suffer as no action was taken against them,” he added.
Abul Kalam Azad, a resident of Dhanmondi area, expressed anger saying, “India banned onion export just a few hours after hilsa shipment had reached there from Bangladesh on Tuesday.”
The Bangladesh government decided to send 1,475 tonnes of hilsa to India as a goodwill gesture on the occasion of Durga Puja, an annual Hindu festival.
“The reason behind the export ban they’re showing is the shortage of onions in their domestic markets. We experienced the same situation last year when the prices of the cooking ingredient rose to more than Tk 300 per kg here after India had stopped onion export. Yet, we survived, but our farmers had to face losses as it resumed exporting onions when our local onions started arriving in the market. So, it’s better for us to be self-sufficient!” Azad added.
Anisur Rahman, a shopkeeper at Jatrabari, said they buy onions from the wholesale market. So, they’ve nothing to do. “The wholesalers, especially those in Khatunganj of Chattogram and Shymbazar of Dhaka, played a dirty role behind it. Today, I bought onions at a higher price compared to the previous days. So, we also sell at high prices,” he added.
Talking to UNB, Mohammad Hafiz Uddin, an importer of the country's biggest wholesale market Shyambazar, said some traders increased the onion prices due to increased demand among customers because many consumers are stocking onions after hearing the news of onion export ban by India.
“Still, there’re huge onions in the market. Huge onions have also been produced in the country this year. So, there’s no possibility of a price hike like the previous year,” he said.
Hafiz said huge imported onions are there in the market. “So, why’s this price hike?
“Some traders increased its price by Tk20-30 per kg of imported onion compared to Monday. Today, we sold each kg of imported onion at Tk55-60 while the local one up to Tk70 per kg. I think the price will become stable by the next month,” he added.
Source said India exported $198 million of onions during the April-June period of FY21 and $440 million during the entire 2019-20. Bangladesh, Malaysia, the UAE and Sri Lanka are the top importers of Indian onions.
Open market sale
Commerce Ministry source said the government has decided to import one lakh tonnes of onion as soon as possible to rein in the skyrocketing prices in the local markets.
Besides, Trading Corporation of Bangladesh (TCB) started open market sale (OMS) through trucks from Sunday, offering it at Tk 30 per kg.
Md Abdul Jabbar Mondol, Assistant Director at the Directorate of National Consumer Rights Protection, Ministry of Commerce, told UNB that they conducted drives in different markets, including Shyambazar, Kawranbazar and Mohammadpur areas to control the price hike.
“Conducting the drives in the areas an amount of Tk 2,28,000 was realized as fine on Tuesday. We’ll continue it so that unscrupulous businessmen can’t make extra profit. Some unscrupulous traders hiked the prices illogically. They won’t get this chance in the future,” he added.
Jabbar Mondol said there are huge onions in the country. “So, there’ll be no price hike like the previous year.”
Meanwhile, Bangladesh has requested the Indian government to withdraw the ban imposed on onion export as soon as possible, keeping the import flow of onion from India uninterrupted.
Bangladesh expects a positive outcome in this regard soon.
What happened last year?
Bangladesh saw a record hike in onion prices after India banned its export on September 29 last year.
Onions witnessed a 557.8 percent year-on-year rise, TCB said. The record jump was made in only two months after the Indian export ban. Each kg of the bulb cost about Tk 30 before the ban.
According to TCB data, the price of local onion increased by 542.86 percent while that of imported one by 572.73 in November last year compared to the corresponding period of the previous year.
A market analysis showed that the price hike, which stemmed from the ban India slapped on the export, is higher than the TCB estimate.
According to the Commerce Ministry, the annual demand for onion in Bangladesh ranges between 2.2 and 2.5 million tonnes. Although the country’s own annual production has risen, so has the amount imported over the last decade.
Commerce Ministry figures show the amount imported was hardly 0.4 million tons in FY09, but had touched up to 1.1 million tons in recent years.