Further price hike feared
The supply of imported onions from India, against previous letters of credit (LC), has run out at Hili, leading to a shortage of the essential cooking ingredient, and an increase of its price in the markets.
The price of onions increased to Tk70 per kilogram (kg) from Tk50-55 in Hili's markets yesterday, up by Tk15-20 per kg.
Traders and importers blamed that the existing stock of onions, which was imported against previous LCs before India had banned the export of onions, had run out and caused this price rise. India had imposed the ban with immediate effect until further notice, in order to improve their domestic availability of onions.
Upon inspecting various markets in Hili yesterday, this Dhaka Tribune correspondent found many warehouses sealed shut, as the supply of onions had run out. Only a handful of warehouses contained onions, whose owners said its prices would rise soon once those run out as well.
Rafikul Islam, an importer of onions, told Dhaka Tribune he had purchased onions from Hili land port at Tk40-45 per kg previously, which was Tk50-55 per kg even two days ago, but yesterday he had to purchase those at Tk70 per kg.
"The price of low quality onions, most of which has deteriorated, are sold for as little as Tk20-25 per kg. However, those are mostly unsaleable," he added.
Rezaul Islam, a retail trader, said the price of onions was Tk50-55 per kg on Thursday, but it rose to Tk65 per kg on Saturday, and sold yesterday at Tk70 per kg.
He alleged many wholesalers are hoarding their onion supply inside their warehouses, capitalizing on the news of other warehouses running out of onions. They want to artificially create a crisis and spike onion prices,he complained.
Bablur Rahman, another onion importer, said no onion-laden truck has entered through Hili land port in the last 8-9 days.
"The last import was made after a series of talks between importers and authorities back on October 4, after which 57 trucks had entered Bangladesh with over 1,000 tons of onions," he said.
"But most of the trucks remained stationary for the last 8-9 days, with triple sheds enshrouding onion, which caused most of it to decay."
Whatever remaining onions the importers could salvage, were sold until now, Bablur remarked.
He hoped the commerce ministry would discuss this issue with its Indian counterpart, so that the latter allows onions to be exported to Bangladesh once again.
Harun ur Rashid, president of the importers group in Hili port, blamed the stalemate on the Durga Puja holidays, adding that some trucks had entered Bangladesh with onions from Saturday.
"We are trying our best to convince India to export their onions to Bangladesh once again," he also said.