India on Monday prohibited the export of all varieties of onion except in cut, sliced or powdered form
Onion importers, who use Hili port for importing from India, said import of onion remained on halt on Thursday as Delhi maintained the ban on onion export to Bangladesh.
Even though there were assurances of receiving old onion consignments stuck outside the Hili land port prior to the ban, local onion importers did not receive the necessary approval for the procurement.
Around 250-300 onion-laden trucks became stuck in India waiting to enter Bangladesh, said Haroon Ur Rashid, president of the Hili Land Port Import-Export Group. The onion will rot if the vehicles remain stranded, he said.
Besides, importers have opened letters of credit (LC) for procuring about 10,000 tons of onion from India, which is now uncertain, Rashid said.
As a result, onion price has shot up by Tk10-15 per kg and the bulb is being sold at Tk65-70 per kg in the port market as soon as news of India’s export ban spread.
India on Monday prohibited the export of all varieties of onion except in cut, sliced or powdered form.
Shankar Das, C&F agent for the Indian part of the port, said the Department of Foreign Trade of the Government of India issued a notification announcing the ban on Monday evening. Onion export to Bangladesh will be stopped until further notice.
He said the destruction of onion in recent floods in India and supply crunch have pushed up the prices. “The government’s move is aimed at controlling the prices in the local market,” he said.
Anil Thakur, an Indian exporter, said the Indian government decided to ban the export of onion to keep the onion prices normal in India. So, the customs immediately stopped any import of onions, including the trucks that were already loaded with onions to go to Bangladesh.
Last year, India banned onion export without prior notice, pushing up prices of the bulb in Bangladesh to record heights.
Onion markets heat up across the country
The ban on onion export slapped by India has triggered price hikes in Chittagong, Hili, and Chapainawabganj as well.
In Chittagong, according to Khatunganj market wholesalers, Indian onions sold at Tk38-40 per kg on Monday but it shot up to Tk55-Tk70 per kg on Tuesday.
Speaking to Dhaka Tribune, General Secretary of Khatunganj Hamid Ullah Market Traders' Welfare Association Mohammad Idris said the price would hover around the existing ranges for the next week or two.
“No onions have been imported from Myanmar through the Teknaf border due to the ongoing Covid-19 situation. Prices will drop further with imports from Myanmar and other countries,” he said.
In June, July, and August this year, 1,082 metric tons of onions imported from China and Myanmar entered through the Chittagong seaport.
In Chapainawabganj, a similar situation was found as onion trucks did not enter the Sonamasjid land port on Tuesday morning.
About 200 trucks carrying onions are stuck in Mohaddipur, India. As a result, the importers of the country may face losses.
Bablu Hasanat Durul, an onion importer from the area, said: "With the opportunity to import onions from other countries and the stock of domestic onions, India's decision should not increase the price of onions in the country's market like last time."
Mesbahul Haque Mesba, former general secretary of the Sonamasjid Land Port C&F Agents Association, said that even though 44 Indian onion carts entered the port on Monday, no onion truck entered the port on Tuesday.
Onion traders fined across the country
Local authorities have penalized onion traders across the country for selling onions at a higher price.
In Dinajpur, three onion traders were fined Tk2,000 by Nawabganj upazila Assistant Commissioner (Land) and Executive Magistrate Al Mamun.
He said: “Onion traders were selling onions at Tk100-120 per kg instead of Tk50. After learning about this, we conducted a drive in the local market and fined three of them.”
In Benapole, three more onion traders were penalised Tk30,000 by a mobile court.
Sharsha upazila Executive Officer Pulok Kumar Mandal conducted the mobile court on Tuesday.
In Lakshmipur, a mobile court fined two wholesalers Tk6,000 for selling onions at a higher price and failing to show invoices.
The mobile court was conducted by Additional District Magistrate Abu Wadud on Tuesday.
In Brahmanbaria, a mobile court fined two traders for selling onions at a higher price.
The mobile court conducted by Kasba upazila Assistant Commissioner (Land) and Executive Magistrate Hasiba Khanom, fined one wholesaler Tk5,000 and another Tk3,000 in this regard.
On Monday, the Indian government prohibited the export of all varieties of onions yet again. The Directorate General of Foreign Trade, under the Commerce Ministry of India, issued a notification on Monday to this end.
On September 29, last year, India imposed a similar ban on the export of onion to Bangladesh due to a price hike of the item in its domestic market. The price of the kitchen item had shot up to Tk300 a kilogram in Bangladesh. Later, India had lifted the ban on March 15 this year.
However, the market became volatile again at the beginning of September since the onion harvest season ended and the supply faced shortage due to floods.
Our correspondents Selim Reja, Benapole, Saiful Islam Swapan, Lakshmipur, and Ujjal Chakraborty, Brahmanbaria, also contributed to this report