Experts call for small scale imports
Onion farmers now fear losses as India lifted its ban on export of the essential cooking ingredient at a time when the growers have start harvesting the crop.
Experts said the sudden import of onions would make the price slump, which may hit the cultivators hard.
They favoured small scale imports during the local onion harvesting season.
"The government has to take farsighted decision to ease conflict of interests among local farmers, consumers, and importers," said Professor Humayun Kabir, chairman, department of horticulture, Sher-e Bangle Agriculture University.
Considering the consumers' affordability, the government should allow traders to import a limited amount of onions during the harvesting season, he suggested, warning that sourcing Indian onions in large quantities might become another cause of suffering for the country.
"Onion farmers will lose their interests in growing the crop in the coming years if they face losses," Kabir feared.
He said that the country's farmers were always in loss. For sustainable agriculture, the farmers' interests should be considered first, the professor suggested.
In September last year, India imposed a ban on onion exports, which created a supply shortage in markets and prompted traders to increase the price to Tk280 per kg.
However, on Monday, the Indian government, issuing a notification, lifted the ban with effect from March 15.
Talking to Dhaka Tribune, a farmer said that the withdrawal of ban during the harvesting season was a matter of concern.
“With imports of the Indian variety, prices of local onions will come down to Tk800-1,000 per maund, which is now Tk1,500-1,700,” said Mukul Sheikh, an onion farmer at Rajapur in Rajbari.
The lifting of ban, he said, might apparently benefit the consumers, but ultimately it would not bring overall benefit.
"We will be great losers," said Mukul.
"Last year I counted a loss of Tk1 lakh by cultivating onions, but this year I hoped for profits seeing the market price," he added, and said the new situation left him concerned.
"I decided not to produce onion anymore," said the farmer.
“The government should not allow onion imports at the harvesting time,” Mubin Meer Malut, farmer of Faridpur, said.
“If the price is more than Tk40 a kg, we can earn a marginal profit. But Indian onion brings down the price to Tk25 a kg, causing us huge losses every year," he added.
Meanwhile, the government had earlier assured that it would not allow the import of onions during the harvesting period, February to May.
But this time it did not take any such initiative.
The demand for the essential cooking item is about 30 lakh tons in a year, of which 23 lakh tons is produced locally and the rest come from India, according to Bangladesh Bank data.