The trucks were forced to sell a kilogram of onions to each customer, instead of the 2kg previously announced
The open market sale (OMS) trucks of the Trading Corporation of Bangladesh (TCB) on Wednesday struggled to maintain customer queues as demand for onions in open market sales (OMS) kept rising, barely two days after India banned its export of the item to Bangladesh.
To maintain discipline among the crowds, the trucks were forced to sell a kilogram of onions to each customer, instead of the 2kg previously announced.
According to the TCB, each truck contains 300kg of onions, but they had previously announced a 200-400kg allocation per truck.
On a visit to an OMS point at the capital's Farmgate on Wednesday, this correspondent found a huge crowd waiting to come by the bulb.
Sabrina Runa from Khamar Bari said: “We have to run our family with a limited budget. If onion prices reach more than Tk100 per kg, then it is not possible to eat onions. I came to buy a kilo of onions for Tk30 from the OMS truck. But I have been standing here for an hour, unsure whether I will get it or not.
Fakhrul Alam, a private service holder, visited the OMS truck point at Malibagh and said: “I went to our local grocery stores, but most of them were out of onions. Those who had them charged more than Tk100 a kg. So I came here to buy them at Tk30.”
“My salary was reduced due to the Covid-19 pandemic, as did many others'. How can the onion traders charge such high prices despite an adequate supply in the market?" he asked.
“Currently we do not have enough stock of onions, so we started selling 300kg for each OMS point. But if the price and demand increase, then we will increase our stock,” said Humayun Kabir, spokesperson of TCB.
“Onion is a perishable cooking item. It cannot be stored for a long time. Every week we call for tenders where dealers provide us with onions from different countries, including India, Turkey and Myanmar. Currently we are providing Indian onions. We decided to sell one kg for each person so that everyone gets it,” he added.
The stock of onions will increase to 400kg for each truck in Dhaka from Thursday and other districts from Sunday.
Currently 275 OMS trucks are operating in the country, of which 40 are in the capital.
Grocery shops run out of onions thanks to panic buying
As the prices of onions skyrocketed a day after news of India’s onion export ban spread, consumers began to stockpile on the bulb similar to last year.
Retailers were found to sell it for as high as Tk120 per kg.
Most of the shops in the kitchen markets and local groceries had run out of the cooking ingredient.
Mobile court drives help partially reduce prices
In an attempt to curb rapid price hikes, the Directorate of National Consumer Rights Protection (DNCRP) conducted extensive drives across the capital on Tuesday, which helped in reducing onion prices.
Indian onions were found retailing for Tk120 per kg before the mobile court drives, after which the price came down to Tk100 a kg. The onions were sold for Tk90 per kg on Monday.
In the wholesale markets, local onions were being sold for Tk90-100 per kg. After the drives, prices came down to Tk85-90 per kg.
Hridoy Khan, an onion wholesaler, said that prices would be reduced if onion import from India resumed.
Mohammad Mazed, an onion importer and general secretary of Onion Importers Association, said that there was sufficient supply of onions at Shyambazar, one of the largest onion hubs in the country.
Deputy Director of the Directorate of National Consumer Rights Protection (DNCRP) Monjur Mohammad Shahriar said the directorate had started fining unscrupulous traders who increased prices from Tuesday, and that the drives would continue to ensure that prices remained stable.
“There are said to be 600,000 tons of onions in stock in Bangladesh. Yet traders increased prices. On Tuesday, we fined 152 companies in Shyambazar and Jatrabari with Tk9 lakh in total for manipulating onion prices," he added.
India banned onion exports on September 29 last year, a move that led to a skyrocketing of prices of the key cooking ingredient to a historic high of as much as Tk300 per kilogram in Bangladesh.
Later India lifted the ban on March 15 this year.
It again prohibited the export of all varieties of onions again on September 14