Consumer Association of Bangladesh blames importers
Prices of onion soared to record Tk 200-220 a kg in the city’s kitchen markets on Thursday as a section of unscrupulous traders taking advantage of lax monitoring of the government kept pushing up the prices of the key cooking ingredient, alleged consumers and traders.
on Thursday, per kg local variety of onion retailed for Tk210 to Tk220, imported onion from Myanmar sold for Tk180 to 200, onion imported from Turkey sold for Tk160 to Tk170 per kg at Malibagh, Shantinagar and Shukrabad kitchen markets.
Prices rose by as high as Tk40 to 50 in a single day.
At the capital’s Karwan Bazar wholesale market, traders were selling a sack of five kg local onion for Tk950 to Tk1,000. On the other hand, five kg imported (Myanmar) onion were selling between Tk800 and Tk900 and five kg onion from Turkey were selling at Tk750 to Tk800.
Abdul Alim, a retired government official, who went to Shantinagar Bazar to buy onions, was astonished at the spiraling onion prices.
“Such a high price of onion I have never seen in my lifetime. I bought only a kg onion, instead of planned five kg” he said, expressing his wonder.
Venting his frustration, Alim said the government should deal the crisis with iron hands as dishonest traders were behind the skyrocketing prices of onion.
Housewife Hajera Katun has been rationing the consumption of onion since last month to save additional costs. Talking to Dhaka Tribune, she said, “We have halved the onion consumption. It is still so expensive to afford even one kg onion at such an exorbitant price”.
She sought the government intervention to reduce the price of the key cooking ingredient.
Asked, Jihad Hossain, a retail onion trader at Sukrabad kitchen market blamed the unregulated wholesale markets and profit monger importers for the situation.
“Ask the wholesalers and importers. It is better to ask the government to find the reasons behind the skyrocketing onion prices,” Jihad told Dhaka Tribune, adding that he was a small fish struggling to manage his four-member family with a tiny grocery shop.
“We the small retailers cannot make trouble in the onion market. It is the big fishes who control and manipulate the market of essential goods.”
Wholesale onion traders blamed supply shortage and inclement weather for the latest bout of onion price hike.
Sagir Ahmed, a wholesaler at Karwanbazar, said “Although onions are being imported from Myanmar, Turkey and Egypt following the imposition of an export ban by India, the volume of import is still insignificant to cater to the domestic demand.”
“We have a supply shortage. Indian onions are not coming, while local variety has scarcity in the market. Besides, it takes a long time for onion to come from Turkey and Egypt,” said wholesale trader Imam Hossen at Shyambazar.
According to Trading Corporation of Bangladesh (TCB) data, on October 15, the price of onion was at Tk80 to Tk95 per kg; the price rose to Tk90 to Tk100 per kg on October 23; the price rose to Tk120 to Tk130 on October 31. As of on Thursday, the price of onion rose to Tk150 to Tk170 per kg.
On September 29, the Indian government banned the export of onion with immediate effect until further order in order to improve the domestic availability of onions.
The move came after the Indian government recently fixed minimum export price of onion to rein in soaring prices in their domestic market.
To deal with the undesired situation, the Trading Corporation of Bangladesh (TCB) started selling onion from early October through open market sale (OMS) scheme at various points across the capital.
On November 12, Industries Minister Nurul Majid Mahmud Humayun claimed in the parliament that the onion price came under control at a time the key cooking ingredient went beyond the purchasing capacity of general people.
Talking to Dhaka Tribune, Consumers Association of Bangladesh (CAB) President Golam Rahman said, “It is utterly frustrating news for us. The government has given many incentives for traders to import more onion. But they did not import enough. This has created the current crisis.”
The government itself should have imported onions without relying on private sector, he added.
“The government should extend help to the farmers to increase onion production from next year. They have to provide loans and incentive, and keep monitoring so that onion farmers get fair price,” said Golam Rahman.
CAB president said consumers had no option now other than reducing their consumption of onions or use alternatives items to overcome the crisis.
Neither Commerce Minister Tipu Munshi, nor Commerce Secretary Jafar Uddin could be contacted for comments as they did not pick up phone calls, despite repeated attempts.