The skyrocketing price of onions will come down and stabilise within the next 20-25 days when the new crop comes to the market
India's sudden ban on onion export and the late harvest of the crop in Bangladesh due to an early monsoon this year have led to the present onion crisis, said Agriculture Minister Dr Abdur Razzaque.
"As the monsoon set in early this year, farmers could not harvest their crop on time. Even then, we could solve the problem by importing onions, but India's ban on onion export all of a sudden came as a surprise," said the minister.
He was talking to journalists after attending a seminar styled 'Doing Business with Finland' at the Pan Pacific Sonargaon Hotel in the city on Sunday. The Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industries and the Finnpartnership jointly organised the seminar, in association with the Embassy of Finland in New Delhi.
Dr Abdur Razzaque said, "The skyrocketing price of onions will come down and stabilise within the next 20-25 days when the new crop comes to the market. By that time India too will withdraw its ban on onion export."
In the meantime, the government is trying to tackle the situation through importing onions from other countries, he added.
The minister added, "Agriculture in Bangladesh is dependant on nature, and different natural calamities throughout the year affect crop cultivation the most. But we have developed new species of onions and if we can cultivate them in the right way we will not have to import onions from abroad."
In response to a question about selling onions at a fair price, Abdur Razzaque said the government has decided not to import onions during the peak season so that local farmers can get fair prices for their products.
When asked if the government accepts its failure in handling the onion market, the minister said onions are not an essential food item, but people use it as an important element for cooking food. "However, the crisis is temporary and will soon go away."
"We have become self-sufficient in cultivation of paddy, fisheries and poultry, but the onion crisis alone cannot mar all these successes. We have apologised for it [the crisis] and the prime minister has talked about it," he said.
He further said Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has already said onions are being imported by air to bring the situation under control. When asked where these air-shipped onions are, the minister advised the reporters to talk to the commerce ministry.
About irregular market monitoring, Minister Abdur Razzaque said the market cannot be controlled by monitoring.
"The market depends completely on demand and supply, the market forces. This is basic economics. The police or the Rapid Action Battalion cannot control it," he said.
India has kept on supplying onions to the Maldives even though it has stopped exporting to Bangladesh. When asked if there is any gap in diplomatic relations between the two countries, the agriculture minister refuted the allegation.
He pointed out that, "The Maldives needs a very small quantity of onions because the country has a small population. India has even postponed supplying onions from one of its own states to another."
Nevertheless, the government is working sincerely to stabilise the market, the minister added.