Commerce Ministry pleads for time
Commerce Secretary Tapan Kanti Ghosh on Monday said that due to the volatile international market, onion prices will remain high for at least another month.
He also said that the ministry had already taken initiatives to keep it from rising further.
"Onion prices have shot up due to the heavy downpours in Bangalore, India. Traders in the neighbouring countries are also responsible for this. According to the agriculture ministry, the situation will take at least a month to stabilise. Until the supply of new onions increases," the commerce secretary said.
"We have already sent a letter to NBR for the withdrawal of the 5% duty on onion imports. We had a discussion on the overall situation of the essential commodities market, mainly onion prices.
"With the government's immediate intervention, the prices have already gone down by Tk5 to Tk6 per kg. Prices will go down further in the coming days."
He made the remarks while briefing the media after a meeting on the current market situation of essential commodities held at the Secretariat in the capital.
Ghosh also said that the ministry also requested the National Board of Revenue (NBR) to withdraw tariffs on onions, on crude soybean oil, palm oil and sugar imports due to rising onion prices.
It urged for withdrawing customs duty on onion imports, aiming to keep its price stable in the market.
According to the commerce ministry sources, the chairman of the land port authority was also requested to prevent any congestion in the movement of trucks transporting onions in the border areas.
Besides, two separate teams, led by commerce ministry officials will monitor important markets in the two city corporation municipalities in the capital daily.
During the meeting, the Ministry of Agriculture was also requested to expedite issuing inward processing certificates after completing the quarantine examination of imported onions, he added.
Market monitoring is also done in districts and upazilas led by deputy commissioners and Upazila Nirbahi Officers, with help of the National Consumers Rights Protection Department officials.
To keep the onion market stable from the experience of the last year, onion sales started in September through the Trading Corporation of Bangladesh (TCB).
TCB has been selling 400-1,000 kg of onions in 400 trucks every day since September.
The amount of onion allotment per truck will be increased if required, said the ministry officials.
Other products - sugar, soybean oil and lentils - along with onions are sold regularly.
TCB is running regular sales from trucks in Dhaka with 80-95 trucks. It has so far procured 15,000 metric tons of onion from India and Turkey, they said.
In June, Consumers Association of Bangladesh (CAB) released a report that last year expenses shot up in the capital, like every other country, resulting in the cost of living going up by 6.88%, the highest in the last three years.
This increase was 6.50% and 6.08% respectively in 2019, and 6.0% and 5.19% respectively in 2018.
SM Nazer Hossain, vice-president of Consumers Association of Bangladesh (CAB), told Dhaka Tribune: “Increasing the price of daily essentials always affects the middle class badly because they are confined within a fixed income. For them, a slight increase of even Tk4-5 is a big matter.”