Onion imports fail to calm spiraling retail prices,edible oil and potatoes also join the price hike rally
Though local onions flood the market and supply of imported onions also register a rise, consumers still have to pay through the nose for the kitchen staple.
Both in Dhaka and the port city Chattogram, local onions were at Tk90 per kg on Thursday while Egyptian and Chinese bulbs were at Tk65-75 a kg.
"The market has plenty of local onions. Besides, imported onions are also available. Even then,we have to buy the cooking essential at triple the price," said Al Amin, a customer who came to Dhaka's Rampura kitchen market on Thursday.
Visiting the capital's wholesale onion market at Shyambazar and Karwanbazar and Chattogram's Khatunganj on Thursday, correspondents of The Business Standard found no supply crunch of the kitchen staple.
Although imported onions at the markets were rare a month ago, now the stocks of Egyptian, Pakistani and Chinese were found plenty.
Customers alleged that though the market had recovered from the supply crunch caused by India's onion export ban, prices of the bulb were still too high.
Local onions were being retailed in Chattogram at Tk85-90 per kg. The imported ones were at Tk65-75–slightly less than the previous rate.
Traders in Dhaka's Shyambazar and Karwanbazar wholesale markets were selling the local variety at Tk75-82 and the imported ones at Tk45-52 per kg.
At Khatunganj wholesale market, local onions were selling at Tk78-80 per kg while Egyptian and Pakistani onions were selling at Tk48-50, Chinese onions at Tk40 and Burmese ones at Tk60-62 per kg.
About the gap between wholesale and retail, Dhaka grocer Md Anis said he bought onions at a price above Tk80 and therefore could not sell them below Tk90 per kilogram.
Meanwhile, consumers' rights activists said the retail price is supposed to be lower. Imported onions have not had much of an impact on the retail market.
According to Customs House Chattogram, 170 importers released 26,341 tonnes of imported onions by sea from September 1 to October 28. The total released consignment is worth around Tk100 crore, and per kg price of the bulb stands at Tk37 in average estimates.
But businessmen claimed imported onions rot even before arriving at markets, and therefore the imports are having little impact on the retail price.
Mohammad Idris, general secretary of Hamidullah Mia Market Traders Welfare Association in Khatunganj, said onion prices dropped by Tk5-10 per kg in a week. He, however, claimed that the item rots while being imported by sea, which is one of the reasons for the inflated onion prices.
Chittagong Sea Port Plant Quarantine Center (Plant Quarantine Station) Deputy Director Asaduzzaman Bulbul told The Business Standard that the authorities had approved import of more than 2 lakh tonnes of onions from September 3 to October 28 this year.
The consignments will be brought in from China, Myanmar, Pakistan, Egypt, Turkey, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Malaysia, India, Ukraine, South Africa, the United Arab Emirates, Algeria, Uzbekistan, Russia and Iran.
However, the Plant Quarantine Wing at the Department of Agricultural Extension says it has so far approved 8 lakh tonnes of onion import.
Onion prices rose to Tk120 after India stopped onion exports on September 14. And the market still shows volatility despite numerous measures having been taken up to tame prices.
To cap rising prices, onions are being sold at sales points of the Trading Corporation of Bangladesh at Tk 30 and at Tk35 per kg on e-commerce sites.
SM Najer Hossain, vice-president of Consumers Association of Bangladesh (CAB), told TBS that onion prices were still higher than usual. He recommended strengthening market monitoring to rein in soaring prices.
Onion production target raised, cultivation begins
According to the Department of Agricultural Extension (DAE), the target for onion production this year has been set at 29.46 lakh tonnes.
The country produced 25.57 lakh tonnes of the bulb last year. However, the actual supply was around 19.17 lakh tones, excluding losses during collection and storage.
The DAE said some farmers have already sown onion seeds – approximately on 7,832 hectares of land until Thursday. The produce will arrive in the market as early varieties.
According to the Bangladesh Trade and Tariff Commission, the country consumes 25 lakh tonnes of onions per year. About 70% of this is met by domestic production and the rest by import.
Edible oil, potato prices spike too
Soybean oil prices soared twice amid the global price hike. At present, per liter bottled soybean oil is sold at Tk115-118 and loose soybean oil is sold at Tk100-105 per liter.
A week ago, edible oil companies after a meeting at the commerce ministry announced that they will reduce the price by Tk2 per liter at mill gates. But the retail market is yet to show any impact of the announcement.
Besides, the Department of Agricultural Marketing fixed the retail price of potatoes at Tk35, but they are still being sold at Tk40-45 per kg. The retailers blame wholesalers for the inflated prices.