Bangladesh will look for alternative markets to source garlic, ginger and other spices in case the coronavirus outbreak is prolonged, said Commerce Minister Tipu Munshi yesterday.
We will not face any difficulties if onion imports from China are stopped. However, we are observing the supply situation of garlic and ginger. We will consider alternative markets if the coronavirus crisis continues for a long time,” he told reporters at his office after a meeting with David Marit, the visiting Agriculture Minister of Canada’s Saskatchewan province.
However, he added that currently, there are no major supply deficits of garlic, ginger or other spices. Munshi’s comments come at a time when the prices for various spices, including imported garlic mainly imported from China, soared in recent weeks.
The price of imported garlic shot up 38 per cent to Tk 180- 220 per kilogram in Dhaka whereas just a month ago, prices stood at Tk 140-150 per kilogram.
The price for imported onions, dry chilly and cloves also rose, according to data from the Trading Corporation of Bangladesh.
On the other hand, the price of locally grown onions declined at the same time.
In reply to a question on how the price of garlic increased so much in such a short span of time, Munshi said businesses are taking advantage of the situation.
They cashed in on the recent supply shortage of onion and are still taking advantage, he said.
“We are seriously keeping an eye on the market. We [the government] will soon sit for a discussion regarding the market price of these spices,” Munshi added.
Imports from China are currently on hold and traders who have previously imported stock are selling the spice at higher prices to take advantage of the supply disruption, said Narayan Saha, a wholesaler at Shyambazar.
“However, the price of locally grown garlic is falling following an increase in supply in the market. There won’t be buyers for imported garlic soon,” he said, adding that the same is true for locally grown onions.
Saha also said that the price of ginger is declining due to greater imports from India.
Bangladesh requires three lakh tonnes of ginger annually. With a domestic production value of 77,000 tonnes, the supply of locally grown ginger falls short every year.
The country produces about 4.5 lakh tonnes of garlic each year against a 6 lakh tonne demand. The remainder is imported mostly from China, according to government data.
However, Munshi said that China accounts for only 10 per cent of total imports and so, the country would not face a shortage in supply if the imports are stopped.
Onion prices begin to drop in India following a good harvest and the neighbouring country plans to resume exports of the product soon.
Meanwhile, locally grown onions will continue to be sold in the market so prices will come down, Munshi added.
The commerce minister also mentioned that the government is get a report from the FBCCI on what impact the coronavirus outbreak may have on businesses, including export oriented industries that depend largely on China for intermediate and machinery.
The Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce & Industries (FBCCI) recently sought a few more days to submit their report.