Onion prices shoot to giddy high

Onion
A man seating with onion in front of him Mehedi Hasan/Dhaka Tribune

Prices rise by up to Tk90 per kg, importers apprehend further rise amid short supply, lax monitoring blamed
Onion prices shot to all time high across the country yesterday, as profit-mongering traders increased the prices of both local and imported cooking ingredient taking advantage of lax monitoring by the government.
The unscrupulous onion traders cashed in on the ban India slapped on onion exports on Sunday.
The price rose by between Tk35 and Tk90 in a single day in the capital and other districts.
Traders at both wholesale and retail markets were seen charging prices at their whims, as no monitoring activities from the commerce ministry was seen anywhere in the capital.
While the ministry top officials claimed to have monitored the market through their four teams, no impact was seen at the onion markets, it was alleged.
“Our four teams comprising officials of different ministries and agencies concerned monitored the market,” Commerce Secretary Jafar Uddin told Dhaka Tribune last night.
“The teams will submit their reports today (Tuesday),” he informed.
Importers warned of supply shortage in coming days, hinting a further price hike of onions in the country.
At retail markets, the prices of onion went up by Tk35-Tk40 per kilogram in a day. 
During visits to kitchen markets in the capital, including Hatirpool, Shukrabad and Farmgate, per kg local onion was found selling for Tk110 to Tk120 yesterday, which was Tk75 to Tk80 per kg the day before.
Indian onion sold for Tk100 to Tk110 on the day, up from Tk70 per kg on Sunday.
Rebeka Akter at Hatirpool kitchen market said they were victims of profit-mongering businesspeople, as they charged as much as they wished taking advantage of no monitoring from the government.
“Surge of Tk40 to Tk50 per kg is unthinkable in a digital society where global prices of onion can be watched anytime,” said Rebeka,  venting her frustration over lax monitoring.
She said the benefits of economic growth went to a section of people, and the vast majority of consumers were the victims.
Shahajahan Mia, a trader at Hatirpool kitchen market, said he sold per kg local onion for Tk80 on Sunday evening, which he sold for Tk115 per kg yesterday. 
“We have no role in the current price hike,” he claimed, saying that they bought onion at higher prices from wholesale markets.
“The price surge at wholesale markets forced us to sell at higher rates,” he argued.
Meanwhile, Dhaka Tribune found there were different rates of onion at different kitchen markets in the city. 
At Sukrabad kitchen market, the local onion price was hovering between Tk115 and Tk120 per kg while at Hatirpool it was selling for Tk90. 
While the onion prices also saw a surge at different super shops, their prices, however, remained lower than those in retail markets in the city.
At Shwapno, per kg local onion was selling for Tk100 and Indian onion was selling for Tk90, while the rate for the same onion at Meena Bazar was Tk110 and that of Indian onion Tk100. 
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Commerce on Monday formed ten monitoring teams to keep the supply of onion and prices normal outside the capital and launched the open market sale (OMS) for the capital through the Trading Corporation of Bangladesh, said the Commerce Secretary Jafar Uddin.
Our correspondents from different districts including Chittagong, Bogra, Sathkhira and Hilli reported price hike of onion by between Tk35 and Tk47 at retail markets.
Wholesalers at Karwanbazar and Shyambazar said the last time onion sold for Tk90 per kg was in 2012. However, TCB officials concerned could not give any data on the past abnormal price hike of onion.
While visiting the wholesale markets of Shyambazar and Karwanbazar, Dhaka Tribune found prices of onion rising abnormally with the time rolling on.
The price of Indian onion jumped to Tk80-Tk85 per kg yesterday at both wholesale markets in the city, which sold for Tk60-65 on Sunday.
On the other hand, a kg of local onion sold for Tk100-110 at both Shambazar and Kawranbazar wholesale markets, which was at Tk70-Tk75 a day earlier.
However, onion imported from Myanmar was selling at Tk70-80 per kg, up from Tk58-60 per kg on Sunday. 
The traders at the wholesale markets said quantity of onion from Myanmar was much lower than those from India.
Wholesaler Md Sawpan Mia at Karwan Bazar told Dhaka Tribune: “We have been buying both local and Indian onion at higher rates since Sunday evening, weighing on the wholesale prices."
“Prices will get down if supply increases,” he said, adding that now the markets suffered from low supply.
“We get half the quantity we order every day due to supply constraint,” he added. 
"I did not see any possibility of the prices coming down immediately," he said.
Meanwhile, onion importers expressed their frustration over the ban on Indian onion, saying prices of onion would not come down to an affordable level immediately, as they did not find any suitable alternatives to India.
“We are now importing onion from Myanmar, Pakistan, Egypt and Turkey. It seems none of them will lower onion price significantly anytime soon,” said Noresh Shaha, a Shyambazar-based onion importer.
India, the largest source of the country’s onion, imposed a ban on exports of onion on Sunday.
“If India does not lift the ban immediately, the country will face acute crisis,” said Noresh.
He said the stock of local onion was almost to an end, while the next onion harvesting season would came after three months.
According to traders, the country has a demand for 35 lakh ton onion annually, while Department of Agriculture Extension said local farmers produced 23 lakh tons in FY2018-19.
For the rest, the country has to depend on India as only source of onion imports.
“India had a surplus production of onion, which is why they can export onion at cheaper rates,” said Jagadis Chandra Shaha, another importer at Shyambazar.
He said they got onion from India by two or three days after placing orders, as the cargos came by roads.
So importing onion from India had long been profitable and viable for the traders, he added.
“But it takes 20-30 days to get imported onion from Pakistan, China and Turkey. In the long process, a good quantity of onions perish in ships,” Jagadis mentioned.
“Even, sourcing onion from Myanmar is not profitable due to the same reason,” he claimed.
Onion could be brought from Myanmar at about $700-750 per ton but it took at least 15 days, he added.
Visiting several wholesale markets in the capital including Shyambazar, Karwan Bazar yesterday, it was found that majority of the outlets had small stocks of Indian onion, while some had no stocks. 

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