Local administrations across the country fined onion traders for selling onions at a higher price
The price of onion has increased rapidly in Bangladesh after India imposed an export ban on Monday.
Prices shot up by Tk30-50 per kg in a day, three times higher than in the last two weeks.
In retail markets, prices of local onion increased to Tk120 per kg from Tk80-85. Imported onion was selling for Tk90 per kg, which was earlier around Tk 50-55 per kg.
In the wholesale market, local onion was being sold for Tk90-100 per kg, and imported onion for Tk 60-65 per kg.
Traders expect the prices to follow last year’s the trend of last year, when prices rose by up to Tk300 per kg after India banned onion exports.
In addition to the export ban, shortage in supply of local onions due to the off-season further increased rates, said Hridoy Ahmed, a wholesaler of Kawran Bazar, on Tuesday.
Several customers in Karwan Bazar were found buying at least 5kg of onions on Tuesday.
Aslam Miya, one of the customers, said: “If we have to buy onions at Tk100 per kg at wholesale, how much will it be in retail? We can see traders will hike the price like previous years, creating immense pain.”
Salma Begum, another buyer, said: “If the prices go higher, following last year’s trend, we will stop buying and eating onions this year.”
Mohammad Mazed, an onion importer and general secretary of the Onion Importers Association at Shyambazar, said: “As India banned exporting onions, we are not importing so the price can increase a little. Currently there is lots of local and imported onions stocked at Shyambazar market, they were imported earlier. I can’t say whether the price will follow last year’s trend or not.”
Onion markets heat up across the country
The ban on onion export slapped by India has triggered price hikes in Chittagong, Hili, and Chapainawabganj as well.
In Chittagong, according to Khatunganj market wholesalers, Indian onions sold at Tk38-40 per kg on Monday but it shot up to Tk55-Tk70 per kg on Tuesday.
Speaking to Dhaka Tribune, General Secretary of Khatunganj Hamid Ullah Market Traders' Welfare Association Mohammad Idris said the price would hover around the existing ranges for the next week or two.
“No onions have been imported from Myanmar through the Teknaf border due to the ongoing Covid-19 situation. Prices will drop further with imports from Myanmar and other countries,” he said.
In June, July, and August this year, 1,082 metric tons of onions imported from China and Myanmar entered through the Chittagong sea port.
In Hili, the essential kitchen ingredient retailed at Tk35 per kilogram on Monday, but on Tuesday shot up to Tk65-70 per kg at wholesale markets and retailed at Tk80 per kg.
At least 250 Bangladeshi onion-laden trucks remain stranded at the Indian side of the border.
Importers are fearing the worst as their letters of credit (LC) to import at least 10,000 tons of onion now remains in limbo as a result of the export ban.
Harun-ur-Rashid Harun, president of the Hili Land Port Import-Exporters Group, said that all the importers had recently opened LCs to control the country's onion prices by importing large quantities of onions due to its rising prices.
However, the Indian government stopped exports due to rising prices in their domestic market, leaving 250 trucks carrying onions stranded inside India waiting to enter the country.
“There are more than 10,000 tons in LCs in limbo, for which importers are now fearing losses,” he said.
“According to the international import-export policies, the goods have to be delivered as soon as the LC of a product is opened and the LC is received, but every year, they [India] suddenly stop exporting onions without any notice. The government should take necessary measures in this regard,” he added.
Saiful Islam, revenue officer of Hili land customs station, said no onions were imported through Hili land port on Monday.
"We do not know much about this. There is no instruction from the government as well. An average of 25 to 30 trucks or more of onions are imported daily through Hili land port in an effort to keep onion prices stable in the country's market. But onion imports have been completely stopped since Monday," he added.
Anil Thakur, an Indian exporter, said the Indian government decided to ban the export of onion to keep the onion prices normal in India. So, the customs immediately stopped any import of onions, including the trucks that were already loaded with onions to go to Bangladesh.
In Chapainawabganj, a similar situation was found as onion trucks did not enter the Sonamasjid land port on Tuesday morning.
About 200 trucks carrying onions are stuck in Mohaddipur, India. As a result, the importers of the country may face losses.
Bablu Hasanat Durul, an onion importer from the area, said: "With the opportunity to import onions from other countries and the stock of domestic onions, India's decision should not increase the price of onions in the country's market like last time."
Mesbahul Haque Mesba, former general secretary of the Sonamasjid Land Port C&F Agents Association, said that even though 44 Indian onion carts entered the port on Monday, no onion truck entered the port on Tuesday.
Onion traders fined across the country
Local authorities have penalized onion traders across the country for selling onions at a higher price.
In Dinajpur, three onion traders were fined Tk2,000 by Nawabganj upazila Assistant Commissioner (Land) and Executive Magistrate Al Mamun.
He said: “Onion traders were selling onions at Tk100-120 per kg instead of Tk50. After learning about this, we conducted a drive in the local market and fined three of them.”
In Benapole, three more onion traders were penalised Tk30,000 by a mobile court.
Sharsha upazila Executive Officer Pulok Kumar Mandal conducted the mobile court on Tuesday.
In Lakshmipur, a mobile court fined two wholesalers Tk6,000 for selling onions at a higher price and failing to show invoices.
The mobile court was conducted by Additional District Magistrate Abu Wadud on Tuesday.
In Brahmanbaria, a mobile court fined two traders for selling onions at a higher price.
The mobile court conducted by Kasba upazila Assistant Commissioner (Land) and Executive Magistrate Hasiba Khanom, fined one wholesaler Tk5,000 and another Tk3,000 in this regard.
On Monday, the Indian government prohibited the export of all varieties of onions yet again. The Directorate General of Foreign Trade, under the Commerce Ministry of India, issued a notification on Monday to this end.
On September 29, last year, India imposed a similar ban on the export of onion to Bangladesh due to a price hike of the item in its domestic market. The price of the kitchen item had shot up to Tk300 a kilogram in Bangladesh. Later, India had lifted the ban on March 15 this year.
However, the market became volatile again at the beginning of September since the onion harvest season ended and the supply faced shortage due to floods.
Our correspondents Selim Reja, Benapole, Saiful Islam Swapan, Lakshmipur, and Ujjal Chakraborty, Brahmanbaria, also contributed to this report