The prices of onions have shot through the roof, reaching Tk 250 in Dhaka and many other districts causing immense suffering for the people. Previous to this week, prices had been hovering around Tk 120-150 which was already triple the regular market price; but since then, it has gone up by over Tk 100 in a matter of days. This rise has not come without warnings. It had been building up since at least September 29 when India banned onion export. The authorities, therefore, had more than a month to tackle the crisis which it has not been able to do.
While the authorities had been slow to react, the shortage was criminally exploited by some importers, as reported in this paper yesterday, who marked up the prices by nearly three times the import price. While the administration failed to apprehend the unscrupulous traders, the quantity it provided for open sales was insignificant too, and hence it failed to check the price hike.
Whether the supply shortage was orchestrated or not, the fact remains that it is the administration’s responsibility to ensure that the price of a commodity as essential as onion does not increase to such an agonising point. Had the authorities addressed the matter more promptly from the beginning, the crisis could have been avoided. Furthermore, as traders have alleged, lack of storage capacity has led to a huge percentage of their supply to rot, which is another reason why the price has increased so much.
It is absolutely unacceptable that people should have to tighten their belts because of the lack of appreciation by the authorities of an impending crisis. All those associated with planning should draw lessons from this episode and factor in the unpredictable so that such a crisis can be averted in future. And those who failed to anticipate the crisis should have a thing or two to answer for.