Biman Bangladesh Airlines yesterday waived its cargo handling charges for onion imports, hours before the first consignment of Pakistani onions landed at Dhaka airport.
Eighty-two tonnes of onion were flown in from Karachi by an Azerbaijani air freighter at 7:15pm, Group Captain Mehboob Khan, director at Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport, told The Daily Star.
Another consignment of the essential cooking ingredient from Egypt was expected to arrive at the airport around 1:00am today.
These onions will be sold in the open market through the Trading Corporation of Bangladesh (TCB).
Meanwhile, the civil aviation and tourism ministry at a meeting decided to waive the cargo handling charges for any airlines that will import onion.
Chaired by Secretary M Mohibul Haque, the meeting was held at the ministry.
Talking to The Daily Star, Biman Managing Director Mokabbir Hossain said, “We made the decision [to waive the charges] in public interest.”
Biman charges Tk 18 per kg for any perishable goods, imported by any airlines, for its cargo handling services, he mentioned.
The waiver of charges for onion imports will help keep its prices stable, said a press release of the civil aviation ministry.
The ministry will provide all sorts of support to onion importers in this regard, it added.
On Tuesday, Commerce Minister Tipu Munshi said the government decided to import 50,000 tonnes of onion by cargo planes.
The ministry booked a number of cargo flights of different airlines to import it.
Onion prices began to rise across the country about two months ago when the Indian government imposed a ban on its export. But the prices started to rise sharply last week.
Earlier this month, locally grown onion was sold at Tk 100-120 a kg in the capital’s kitchen markets. But the price jumped to Tk 160 late last week and then kept rising.
The price rose by Tk 30-40 a day and hit a record Tk 260 per kg. Against such a backdrop, the government decided to import onions by cargo planes.
Market monitoring teams from the commerce ministry and different divisions as well as government agencies punished traders for their alleged involvement in manipulation of onion prices.
In the last couple of days, the teams had imposed fines and handed down different jail terms to the offenders.
The prices started dropping three to four days ago after locally grown onions and the ones imported from Myanmar, Egypt and China hit the market.
Locally grown onions were being sold for Tk 170-180 per kg and the imported ones for Tk 120-160 a kg.
Traders fear that onion prices may rise anytime soon if the ongoing transport strike continues.