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Dhaka Tribune

Local onion varieties disappearing from Hili wholesale market

Imported Indian onions are available at nearly half the price compared to local onions, attracting buyers to opt for the imported variety

Update : 15 Jun 2023, 11:45 AM

After a prolonged wait of over two months for the import permit, onion from India are now flowing through various land ports across the country, including Hili land port in Dinajpur.

The imported Indian onions are available at nearly half the price compared to local onions, attracting buyers to opt for the imported variety. 

However, some people still prefer local onions due to its better taste. Nonetheless, since the arrival of Indian onions, the domestic variety has vanished from the market. As a result, despite a decrease in demand, the price of local onions has increased by Tk10 per kg.

A visit to Hili Bazar on Wednesday revealed that most onion shops in the market were sold out of imported Indian onions. Indian Indore and Nashik onion varieties were prominently displayed in every shop. Depending on the type, these onions were being sold at wholesale prices of Tk35-36 per kg and retail prices of Tk40 per kg. Some peeled onions were seen being sold at Tk32 per kg.

Only two shops were found selling local onions. However, they were charging an additional Tk10 compared to the previous week. While last week the price was Tk60 per kg, it has now increased to Tk70 per kg.

Meanwhile, imported Indore and Nashik onions at Hili land port were being sold at wholesale truck sale rates of Tk32-36 per kg.

Ibrahim Hossain, a customer at Hili market, expressed his concern over the escalating onion prices. He stated that prices started rising since the last Eid, increasing from Tk25-30 to Tk90. 

He added: "Due to such a surge in commodity prices, it has become difficult for common people like us to afford onions. As a result, we are compelled to reduce our onion purchases. Previously, I would buy one kg, but these days, I can only afford half a kg."

Ibrahim also highlighted the recent resumption of onion imports from India, which led to a decrease in market prices. He mentioned that onions can now be purchased at Tk40 per kg, allowing consumers to meet their demand while spending less money. With Eid-ul-Azha approaching, he emphasized the need for lower prices during this time.

Ashraful Islam, another buyer in search of onions, pointed out that the market currently sells about two kilograms of imported Indian onions for the price of one kilogram of domestic onions. He added: "We prefer Indian onions due to their lower price and larger quantity. The prices of essential vegetables, along with oil, sugar, and pulses, are on the rise, making it difficult for low-income people like us to afford local onions at higher prices."

Nazma Akhtar, also looking to buy onions, mentioned that local onions have better quality compared to Indian onions. She stated: "Local onions have a longer shelf life compared to Indian onions. Even though the quantity of local onions is less, Indian onions are available in larger quantities. However, I am willing to pay extra for local onions." 

She added: "However, local onion prices were slightly lower last week, at Tk60 per kg, but have now increased to Tk70. It would have been better if the prices were a little lower."

Shakeel Khan, an onion seller in Hili Bazar, explained that the demand of buyers was initially met with domestic onions when the import of Indian onions was halted. However, since the supply has decreased during Eid, the price of local onions has risen, forcing them to purchase at higher prices and subsequently sell at higher prices as well. 

He added that this has led to dissatisfied buyers and decreased sales. With the recent resumption of onion imports from India, the market has seen an increase in the supply of imported onions, resulting in a significant price reduction.

Shakeel added: "Moreover, due to the lower prices of imported onions, buyers are opting for them, reducing the demand for local onions. Consequently, we have not increased the price of local onions. However, a few shops are still selling local onions at higher prices."

Shahinur Reza, joint general secretary of Hili landport Importer and Exporter Group, highlighted that the government had halted onion imports to protect the interests of local farmers and ensure fair onion prices. However, with the unstable onion market manipulated by hoarders, the government decided to permit onion imports from India to control the situation. As a result, onion imports through all land ports, including Hili land port, were allowed.

With only domestic onion supply in the country's market, prices have become increasingly unstable due to hoarding. The recent import of onions from India has brought the market under control, halving the price of onions. The import of onions from India will continue during Eid al-Azha, maintaining normal onion prices in the country.

Sohrab Hossain, public relations officer of Hili land port, informed that onion imports through Hili land port were suspended from March 16 due to a lack of import permits. However, onion imports from India resumed through Hili land port on June 5 after receiving the necessary permits. The quantity of onion imports through the port is gradually increasing, and the process ensures prompt clearance for importers after the customs procedures.

He further stated that the government's revenue has increased due to the resumption of onion imports, benefiting the Port Authority's daily income as well as the workers' earnings at the port.

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