'I'm a pro-business individual'
Commerce Minister Tipu Munshi on Tuesday said if he had to resign from his ministerial post over spiraling onion prices, it would only take a second to do so.
Speaking at a view-exchange meeting titled "Business Community's Role in Preventing Price Hike of Essential Items" organized by the Industry and Commerce Affairs Sub-Committee of Awami League (AL) at a Dhaka hotel, he spoke about calls for his resignation and expressed his skepticism that his resignation would cause onion prices to fall.
"I'm a pro-business individual," the minister commented, adding, "I've been told many times to put those responsible for onion price hikes behind bars. But I've also heard demands of my resignation. If my resignation brings onion prices down, I would gladly resign in a second."
Tipu also said onion import, as well as its consumption, have both gone up in the last 3-4 years.
"The Agriculture Ministry told me our annual domestic onion production is 2.3-2.4 million tons, but our consumption rate has also shot up to 2.4-2.5 million tons," he remarked, "When India first decided to set minimum export price (MEP) of onion at $850 per ton, we believed it was temporary. But when they halted export altogether, that is when we began to look for alternatives."
He recalled how major onion importers such as City Group, Meghna Group, and S Alam Group decided to import 50,000-60,000 tons of onion from Egypt and Turkey, while declaring that they will not charge any profit after importing the essential cooking ingredient.
"But some onion are being imported through Chittagong port by importers who are selling those at prices higher than the ones charged by three importers. Where is their ethics? Those who think about making profits during such dire times cannot be true businessmen." He urged wholesalers and retailers to resort to ethical profiting and not sell onion at prices significantly higher than their cost prices.
"I've decided to import 1 lakh tons of onion through Trading Corporation of Bangladesh (TCB) if necessary, which will hit Dhaka and Chittagong markets within the next 40 days," he added.