Onion prices are still 233% higher than what they were last year
Prices of local variety of onion have started to come down in kitchen markets after India last Wednesday decided to lift ban on onion export.
During visits to several kitchen markets in the capital including Rampura, Malibagh and Karwanbazar, local onion was found retailing at Tk80-100 per kilogram.
Onion from Myanmar retailed at Tk80 a kg, while those from China at Tk70-80 per kg, Pakistani onion at Tk80-90 per kg and Egyptian onion Tk70-80 a kilo.
A week earlier, these varieties sold for Tk90-120 per kg.
At wholesale markets, local onion sold for Tk55-66, while its Myanmar variety for Tk70-75 per kg, Chinese onion for Tk50-60 per kg, Pakistani ones for Tk55-60 per kg and Egyptian onion for Tk55-70 per kg.
According to Trading Corporation of Bangladesh (TCB), onion prices are still 233% higher than what they were last year.
Mohammad Hridoy, an onion wholesaler at Karwanbazar, said the supply of local onion was huge as the new seasonal Hali variety had hit the markets, selling at Tk50-60 per kg.
The price of Murikata variety has also come down. Once India would begin exporting onion to Bangladesh, prices would fall further, he added.
Jewel Ahmed, another onion wholesaler, said that although price drop would benefit retail customers, he feared farmers would not get fair price for their produce.
Rasel Hossain, a retailer at Rampura Bazar, said onion prices should not drop all of a sudden as it would prevent onion farmers from getting fair prices.
Shamsun Nahar, a consumer, said while prices dropped, they were still above their purchase capacity.
"This time last year, I bought onion at Tk20-35 a kg. Our onion market is import-dependent. We should focus more on local production," she added.
According to traders, around 30-40% of onion is imported to meet local demands, the lion's share of which comes from India.
On September 13 last year, the Indian government increased minimum export price of onion to $850 per ton, which resulted in onion prices hike in Bangladesh's kitchen markets.
The Indian government decided to lift the ban on onion exports amid a decline in its wholesale prices in Maharashtra, Karnataka, and other states.
Quoting Indian Union Food Minister Ram Vilas Paswan, the Times of India reported that India's monthly onion production was expected to be 4 million tons in March, which was 2.4 million tons during the same period last year.
The ban on onion exports would be lifted with a notification of the Directorate General of Foreign Trade of India tentatively by March 2, the report said.
In India, wholesale prices of onions have more than halved in the last five weeks, according to data compiled by the National Horticultural Research and Development Foundation, an Indian government agency.
India banned onion exports on September 29, leading to further price hike in Bangladesh's kitchen markets.
Two months before that, onion used to sell at Tk25-40, which later jumped to Tk280 per kg for the first time in the country.
To tackle the crisis, the government had to import onion from Myanmar, Turkey, Egypt and few other countries.
Bangladesh Tariff Commission and the Ministry of Commerce said the country needed 26 lakh tons of onion annually, while the Department of Agriculture Extension (DEA) said the country produced 23 lakh tons.
Onion import through Hili to begin soon
Meanwhile, onion import from India through Hili land port may resume as soon as an official notification is issued.
Harunur Rashid and Mobarak Hossain, importers at the land port, said that the abundance of new onions in different provinces of India, their domestic market, helped overcome the onion crisis.
They are hopeful that the import of onion will begin within a day or two.