Onion prices on Tuesday shot up to Tk 120 a kilogram, rising by Tk 50 overnight, after the Indian government had imposed a ban on the export of the item.

Many people rushed to kitchen markets and shops to buy onions fearing a further rise in the prices as it happened in 2019.

Wholesale and retail prices of onions marked a sharp increase on Monday night, immediately after the announcement of export ban by India, and the prices continued to rise every hour on Tuesday with the retail ones hitting Tk 120 a kg in the evening.

In a notification on Monday the Directorate General of Foreign Trade, under the commerce ministry of India, prohibited the export of all varieties of onions until further notice amid price hike of the commodity in the country due to floods.

Before issuing the notice, Indian authorities stopped the export of onions to Bangladesh through all land ports between the two countries on Monday morning.

On Tuesday morning, local onions sold for Tk 75-80 a kg in most of the kitchen markets in the city and the prices increased to Tk 90-100 a kg by noon. In the afternoon, the prices reached Tk 100-Tk 120 a kg in the city markets.

Prices of Indian onions increased by Tk 30-40 a kg overnight and the item was selling for Tk 80 a kg on Tuesday.

Consumers expressed anger over the sudden Indian ban on onion export and sharp price hike on Bangladesh markets.

‘India banned onion export last year without any notice. They have done it again this year. We are in fear that onion prices may skyrocket further as it happened in the past year,’ Shahan Ara, a private company official, told New Age at the Mohammadpur Krishi Market on Tuesday morning.

She said that she went to buy onions after learning about the Indian ban. ‘I bought 5 kgs of onion at Tk 100 a kg. I wanted to buy more as the onion prices had hit Tk 300 a kg in the past year following the Indian ban,’ she said.

She said that the price hike of onions was a huge blow for consumers who were grappling with the price hike of other commodities like vegetables amid the coronavirus outbreak in the country.

Ashikur Rahaman, a resident of Adabar, said that he bought 10 kgs of onions at the rate of Tk 100 a kg. ‘I fear that onion prices will increase further, like that of the past year,’ he said.  

He alleged that the traders were hiking the prices despite having adequate stock.

To keep onion prices stable, a number of teams of the Directorate of National Consumer Rights Protection and commerce ministry began monitoring markets on Tuesday morning but the initiative failed to contain the price spiral.

In Chattogram, onion prices also went up on both wholesale and retail markets on Tuesday. The onion warehouses were emptied on the day by wholesalers as well as by some retailers. It was like a festival of onion sales in the port city, said traders.

According to Khatunganj market wholesalers, imported Indian onion prices shot up to Tk 55-60 a kg on Tuesday from Tk 38- 40 a  kg on Monday.

In kitchen markets of Chattogram, Indian onion prices jumped to Tk 70 a kg on Tuesday from Tk 50 a kg a day earlier.

According to the commerce ministry, the annual demand for onions in Bangladesh is around 24 lakh tonnes and the country imports around 7-10 lakh tonnes a year to meet the demand.

 The country has a stock of 5.25 lakh tonnes of local onions and it will need to import six lakh tonnes of onions to meet the demand till the next main harvesting season, March-April.

Commerce ministry officials said that this year the government had taken early preparation to avoid unusual price hike of onions keeping in mind the situation of 2019.

They said that one lakh tonnes of onions would be imported from alternative sources within a short time.   

The ministry on Tuesday again requested the National Board of Revenue to withdraw five per cent customs duty on onion import to encourage traders to import the product from alternative markers.

Withdrawal of the duty will also help keeping onion prices stable, it said in a letter to NBR chairman Abu Hena Md Rahamatul Muneem.

The ministry wrote the letter after the NBR on Monday rejected the ministry’s previous request for withdrawing the duty.

The market monitoring teams, meanwhile, scrutinised the buy receipts of onion wholesalers and asked traders not to sell the item at exorbitant prices.

Narayan Chandra Saha, a wholesaler at Shyambazar in Dhaka, said that a mobile court on Tuesday fined a number of traders alleging that they were selling onions at high prices.

He said that the demand for onions increased on Monday night at wholesale markets after the imposition of import ban by India.

The government team asked traders to sell onion for Tk 40-50 a kg, which is ‘impractical’, he said.

Narayan said that the wholesale prices of local onions was Tk 65-70 a kg in the morning in Shyambazar and the price crossed Tk 85 a kg in the evening.

Khatunganj Hamidullah Mia Market Business Association general secretary Mohammad Idris said that the overheated onion market would cool down once import of the item from Myanmar and other countries began.

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