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Dhaka Tribune

India lifts ban on onion export

Onion prices jumped sharply in Bangladesh after India banned export of the popular kitchen item on September 14

Update : 29 Dec 2020, 09:00 AM

 India withdrew its ban on onion export on Monday, nearly three and a half months after imposing it abruptly which sent the commodity's price through the roof in Bangladesh.

Bangladesh will resume onion import through Dinajpur’s Hili land port on January 1 next, officials here said.

The decision was announced through a notification from India’s Ministry of Commerce and Industry.

Businessmen at the Hili port have confirmed the development.

Onion prices jumped sharply in Bangladesh after India banned export of the popular kitchen item on September 14 in the pretext of local shortage and price hike. 

The abrupt move pushed up onion prices in the Bangladesh market, forcing the country to import the item from various other suppliers to meet the demand.

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Mobarak Hossain, an onion importer at Hili, said they received a letter from Indian traders around 10pm on the export ban withdrawal.

“They’re allowing onion export from January 1 but since it’s a weekly holiday, the import will begin from January 2,” he said, adding that they are preparing to open LCs.

But since no price has been fixed, it is assumed that the onion will have to be imported within US$300.

“The prices will fall to Tk20-25 per kg in the retail market once the imported onion hits the market,” Mobarak said.

Meanwhile, Hili port importer-exporter group President Harun ur Rashid said they would decide on onion import after meeting Indian traders.

“We had opened LCs for 10,000 tons before the export ban. We incurred heavy losses as India didn’t allow us to import onion despite repeated requests,” he said.

“Local farmers are cultivating onion in large scale now. We have to make sure that they don’t incur losses,” Rashid said.

Onion prices falling

India exported $198 million of onions in the April-June period of FY21 and $440 million in 2019-20. 

The prices shot up to Tk 00-120 a kg after India had banned onion export on September 14 this year for the second consecutive year.

Bangladesh’s annual demand for the popular kitchen item ranges between 2.2 and 2.5 million tons. 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.

The government took prompt steps to import the kitchen staple to cool down the market and sell it through its trading arm Trading Corporation of Bangladesh (TCB).

The prices have been falling for the past few weeks with the TCB offering the item at Tk23 per kg through e-commerce companies.

On September 16, Commerce Minister Tipu Munshi told the media that the country has a stock of 600,000 tons of onion and asked the people not to panic.

Onion prices in Bangladesh saw a 557.8% year-on-year rise last year after India first banned the item’s export, according to TCB data.

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