Prices soar, consumers hit hard
Prices of onion increased by Tk 100 or more per kg overnight as traders began stockpiling following the news that India has banned the exports of the vegetable till March next year with a view to increasing availability in domestic markets and keeping prices in check.
On October 28, India set a minimum export price of onions at $800 per tonne for the rest of the year. The price made it almost impossible for Bangladeshi traders to import the essential cooking ingredient.
A notification issued Thursday by the Directorate General of Foreign Trade of India revised the policy and imposed the export ban, which came into effect on Friday.
Wholesale and grocery shop owners in Bangladesh blame India's move for the sudden hike in prices even though the restriction is nothing new.
As rising prices of essentials have already been making it harder for people to make ends meet, the nearly twofold hike shocked consumers.
At Kazir Dewri market in Chattogram, a kg of onions was sold for around Tk 240 yesterday, up from Tk 140 the previous day.
The consumers rights directorate raided different kitchen markets across the country and punished 133 businesses, but the initiative had little effect.
At Karwan Bazar, retailers were asking for Tk 220 a kg around 8:15pm.
In November 2019, onion prices reached Tk 250 as India banned export of onions.
Farmers in Bangladesh produced around 34 lakh tonnes of onion this year, but the country still has to import 6-7 lakh tonnes to meet the demand.
Onion prices first increased this year in August when India slapped a 40 percent tariff on export. When India set the export price in October, prices in Bangladesh went up further.
A week ago, prices of onions were Tk 105-125 in Dhaka.
"Whom shall I ask about this? Traders are setting prices at whim. There is no remedy for us," said Mohammad Shiplu at Karwan Bazar.
Nurul Islam, a shopkeeper at Karwan Bazar, said, "There is a supply shortage. I went to Shyambazar wholesale market to buy at least 10 sacks of onions, but I could find only three."
Shaheen Hossain, who sells goods at wholesale, said a 42kg sack of the Indian variety was Tk 5,000-5,200 three days ago. But it became Tk 6,400 yesterday.
In Pabna, each kg was sold for Tk 180-200 yesterday.
Last week, each maund (37.3kg) of onion was sold at Tk 4,000-4,500, now it is over Tk 7,000, said wholesale trader Montu Khan.
In Khatunganj, Chattogram, many traders said they ran out of stock.
In Dinajpur, Bahadurbazar and Railbazarhat kitchen markets saw a sudden rise in demand for onions which led to the prices to increase.
Ghulam Rahman, president of the Consumers Association of Bangladesh, said, "There is no logic behind the sudden price hike. The supply has not been disrupted. Traders just want to make more money."
Dipankar Ghosh, a leader of the clearing and forwarding agents in Bhomra land port, said when the traders learnt about the extension of India's restriction, they just reduced the supply to make more money.
AHM Shafiquzzaman, director-general of the Directorate of National Consumers' Right Protection, said, "We are investigating whether onions that were bought at lower prices earlier are now being sold at high prices."
He added that the directorate informed the ministry in May that it might not be possible to control the market without imported onions.
[Mohammad Suman, Kongkon Karmakar, Ahmed Humayun Kabir Topu contributed to this report]