Move to rein in onion, potato prices

The prices of onion and potato will ease up immediately with the country’s own production hitting the market shortly coupled with a huge stock of the essential.

As large amounts of imported onions are landing at the ports, the price of this essential is also coming down. In the last one week, the price of onion came down 15-20Tk. Besides, the authorities are conducting regular drives in the markets to keep the prices of other essentials like potatoes in check.

This week, onion prices in the country’s largest wholesale commodity market Chaktai-Khatungonj in port city Chattogram is 45-50Tk, lower by 10-15Tk than last week’s. This has affected the retail market with onions being sold at 60-65Tk there. Price is falling due to the huge import of onions, traders said.

Since 14 September, the country's onion market has become volatile on the news of the closure of Indian exports. In a single day, it was sold at more than double the price, that is 100 Tk in the retail market.

Since then, the government has issued permits to import around 852,000 tonnes of onions, more than during the whole of last year. For the first time, Bangladesh has started the process of importing a quarter of its onion demand from outside India. The annual demand of onions in the country is about 25 lakh tonnes.  

After the import from India stopped the onions were imported from alternative countries through Chattogram seaport and Teknaf land port. However, due to the Corona epidemic lockdown in Myanmar, very small amounts of onions have been imported through the port of Teknaf. In the last one month, 28 thousand 555 tonnes of onion has been imported through Chattogram port.

According to Chattogram Port and Customs sources, at present most onions have been imported from Egypt, Turkey, China, the Netherlands, Myanmar and Pakistan. But importers also took permission to import onions from at least 18 other countries including Algeria,       New Zealand, Ukraine and Iraq.  

Mohammad Omar Faruque, Secretary of Chattogram Port Authority said, containers full of onions are being unloaded every day. Ships with onions are being given priority to berth in the jetties for unloading.

As the onions are perishable, all necessary arrangements have been made so that the product can reach the market quickly after unloading from the ships, he added.

With the onion crisis of last year in mind, preparations are being made in advance so that the crisis does not recur.

In order to make the import of onion easy, the government has withdrawn the existing five percent import duty on this essential commodity. Besides, the government agency has started selling onions in the open market through the Trading Corporation of Bangladesh, TCB. Onions are also being sold online at fixed prices.

Mohammad Idris Ali, a leading wholesaler in Hamidullah Market in Kathunganj said that onions from Pakistan and Egypt   are selling at 50-52Tk, China 45Tk, Myanmar 65Tk and local onion 75-80 Tk.

He also said, the importers are selling onions at nominal profit as per the instructions of the government and to keep the market normal. Storekeepers are also not thinking of making a profit from selling onions.

The administration has taken all necessary steps to control the onion as well as the potato market. The mobile court of the district administration conducted several raids in the last one week at Reaz Uddin Bazar, the largest market in Chattogram.

Even two months ago, a kg of potato could be found at 30 Tk but now the price is 45 Tk. The prices of potatoes started rising abnormally after mid-September.  Government also set the price of per kg potato in the retail market at 35 Tk.”

 Officials said, the price difference between potatoes has been made in the retail and wholesale markets. Now, the sales gap between these two markets is more than one and a half times.

A mobile court of the district administration fined 10 wholesalers Tk 150,000 while raiding Reazuddin Bazar.

Executive Magistrate Omar Farooq led the operation to check whether the potatoes were being sold at the prices fixed by the government. Ten companies were fined on various charges during the operation.

It is not clear why the price of potatoes is increasing even though there is sufficient stock of potato in the country; He said that “prices will remain under control if the campaign continues.