Onion price hike brings tears to Bangladeshi eyes

Onion price hike brings tears to Bangladeshi eyes
Onion price hike brings tears to Bangladeshi eyes

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Jeddah - Yasmine El Tohamy - DHAKA: Onions from the Netherlands? How about Myanmar?

Dhaka resident Masuma Begum said that she will buy the essential commodity from any part of the world a day after India placed a ban on its onion exports, leading to prices almost doubling in Bangladesh.

“Onions are a mandatory ingredient in our cuisine. It’s a part of our daily food habit,” Begum, 39, told Arab News.

She said the dramatic price increase had made it “difficult to buy even the minimum quantity of onions.”

Until Sunday, onions cost 50 cents per kilogram. By Wednesday, they were being sold at up to $1.2 per kilogram.

“My family needs around two kilograms of onions per week. If the current situation prevails, it will increase my expenses a lot. It’s an extra financial burden on our family of five,” Begum said. 

This isn’t the first time the high price of the commodity has led to tears of frustration for consumers and traders in the country.

A similar ban by India on Sept. 30 last year lifted prices to $3 per kilogram.

To maintain supplies, Bangladesh has started importing onions from Pakistan, Turkey and Egypt.

Assuring residents that “there is nothing to worry about,” Commerce Minister Tipu Munshi said on Wednesday that the country has 500,000 tons of onions in reserve.

“Within one month, we will normalize the supply chain. Already 1,300 tons of onion are being loaded on ships in Myanmar and will reach Bangladesh shortly,” Munshi told a press briefing.

He said that residents “will have to compromise with their onion demands for one month only.”

According to traders at the capital’s wholesale market in Shyambazar, around 80 percent of Bangladesh’s annual onion consumption is sourced from India.

“We prefer to import onions from India as it takes less time which results in minimum damage to the perishable goods,“ Wahid Hasan told Arab News.

 The trader said there was “enough supply” to meet everyone’s needs and blamed panic buying for the “artificial crisis.”

However, on Wednesday, anticipating a crisis in the onion market, Bangladeshi traders began importing from China, Egypt, Myanmar, the Netherlands, Pakistan and Turkey. 

“We have issued import permission for around 50,000 metric tons of onions. We don’t want to cause people to suffer,” Ashaduzzaman Bulbul, deputy director of the Chottogram Plant Quarantine Station, told Arab News. 

 “We hope the first lot of imported onions will reach our port from Myanmar soon,” he added. 

However, the Trading Corporation of Bangladesh, a wing of the Commerce Ministry that works to maintain supplies of essential commodities, said it had beefed up operations to control the market price.  “We have started selling onions at a reduced price through open market sales across the country. Every day, 276 trucks deliver the goods in different localities so that people can buy at an affordable price,” a spokesman told Arab News.

“Different sourcing channels from some other countries like Myanmar are also underway. People will get sufficient supply of onions in the market,” he added.

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