Traders say prices of the cooking ingredient may fall further once imported Indian onions arrive in local markets
Prices of onions have edged down by nearly Tk20 per kilogram in Dhaka against the background of the announcement by India that it will resume exports of the cooking ingredient.
Local onion price was at Tk70-80 per kg at retail markets in the capital on Thursday. The wholesale price of locally grown onions at Karwanbazar is even lower, at Tk60-65 per kilogram.
In the meantime, local onions were being sold at Tk38-40 per kg in Dhaka's Shyambazar wholesale market.
Retailers said the cooking staple was at Tk80-100 even a week ago. Besides, prices of imported Egyptian and Burmese onions also dropped to Tk56-75 at retail, which was at Tk80-85 a week ago. The imported bulbs were being sold at Tk50-56 per kg at the wholesale market on Thursday.
Farmers have begun harvesting the cooking ingredient, which has boosted the market supply. Besides, India will begin exporting onions from March 15.
These two factors have brought down the skyrocketing prices, onion importers and wholesalers have said.
Onion prices will drop even further once the Indian bulbs arrive in Bangladeshi markets, said Haji Md Majed, a Shyambazar-based onion importer.
Meanwhile, Karwanbazar onion wholesaler Ashraful said that the supply of locally grown onions from Pabna and Faridpur was good.
Onion prices soared when India slapped an export ban on the bulbs in September last year. Prices of the cooking ingredient crossed Tk100 overnight and quickly peaked at Tk260 per kg.
Onions from import alternative sources such as Pakistan, Egypt, China and Myanmar failed to push back the onion shortage. The five-month-long spiked market prompted widespread discontent among the public.
Meanwhile, consumer rights activists have begun to question India's decision to lift its export ban precisely when local onions have started arriving at the market. They are worried that the import of the bulbs from the neighbouring country may deprive the local farmers of fair prices.
"A minimum seasonal tax should be imposed on onion import to save local farmers," said Ghulam Rahman, president of the Consumers Association of Bangladesh.
However, the government is less likely to slap such a seasonal tax, said a high official of the commerce ministry.
"The government does not want to restrict onion import as Ramadan is ahead. It is also true that if import is not controlled, onion farmers may incur a loss in this season," said the official on condition of anonymity.
Rice prices keep soaring
Prices of all varieties of rice have surged once again. A kilogram of coarse rice now costs Tk35-38, which earlier was Tk32-35 per kg.
The state-run Trading Corporation of Bangladesh (TCB) notes that coarse prices have risen by nearly six percent within a month.
Good and premium quality rice also edged up to Tk48-52, which previously was Tk45-50. TCB data show that the price of good quality rice hiked two percent in one month.
In the meantime, the price of premium quality rice spiralled by Tk2 per kilogram.
Millers are hiking the price on the explanation that they had been buying paddy at a higher price. Yet farmers sold their harvest long ago and most of them currently do not have any paddy in stock, said Karwanbazar rice trader Aminul Islam.