There are eight to nine grocery stores on the first floor of Segunbagicha kitchen market. But, only four among them were selling onions on Tuesday.
"Selling onions at high prices prompts argument with the customer. Moreover, they are buying a small amount of the cooking staple," said retailer Anis. He added that he sold out his stock on Monday and did not bring fresh onions.
To spare the stress of quarrel with the customer, Anis has stopped selling the bulb and said he will resume once the prices come down. Many retailers like him have either stopped or reduced the sale of onions since the prices skyrocketed in the capital.
The customers have been paying through their nose for red onions since neighbouring India stopped exporting the cooking ingredient last September. One kilogram of onion was being sold for Tk220 to Tk240 at kitchen markets in Dhaka on Tuesday.
The price was Tk210 even four days ago. Traders said supply crunch keeps fuelling the prices up.
Meanwhile, imported onions from Myanmar, Pakistan, China, Turkey and Egypt were available at the kitchen markets. Pakistani onions were being sold for Tk200-210, Burmese for Tk200-220 while Chinese, Turkish and Egyptian onions for Tk170-180 per kilogram.
Karwan Bazar wholesale market was almost the same. Per kilogram of locally grown onion was being sold for Tk215-220 there. Burmese, Pakistani, Egyptian and Chinese onions were sold for Tk182-195, Tk180, Tk170 and Tk150 per kilogram respectively.
Wholesaler Hasan at the market said there is no sudden respite of high prices. He claimed that although ministers announced several initiatives and imports, the shortage even intensified in the last couple of days.
The wholesaler said, "A single truck with 1,890 kilograms of onions came to my store from Pabna on Monday night. However, per truck used to come with more than 7000 kilograms of onion even two days ago."
Both the governmental and non-governmental initiatives failed to check the soaring onion prices after the export ban was slapped by India.
Bangladesh imports 9-10 lakh tonnes of onions against the annual demand of 24-25 lakh tonnes. Almost the whole import — around 97 to 98 percent — comes from neighbouring India. In the wake of the severe domestic market crisis this year, onions are being imported from Pakistan, Myanmar, Turkey, Egypt and China.
Some governmental and non-governmental organizations are even importing planeloads of the cooking staple.
As much as 400 tonnes of onion have been flown in by air cargo in two months since the Indian export ban. Besides, imports of S Alam Group, City Group and Meghna Groups are in the pipeline, which is scheduled to arrive in a week.
As much as 10.5 tonnes of onions for Meghna Group was flown into the country on Tuesday.
The state-run Trading Corporation of Bangladesh is also selling onions at a discounted Tk45 per kilogram in vain to normalise the domestic market.