Skyrocketing onion price puts consumers in peril

The price of onion, a key cooking ingredient, has skyrocketed from Tk30 to Tk80 per kilogram in kitchen markets over the last two weeks, adding much woes to consumers. Traders said that the shortage of supply due to unfavourable weather has affected the onion production in both India and Bangladesh, leading to the skyrocketing price of onion.

They also said that on September 13, the Indian authority attributed minimum export price (MEP) $850 (Tk 71,821) for per metric ton of onion, a significant rise from the previous MEP at $250 to $350 per metric ton, making onion market unstable. Two months ago, the imported price of onion from India was $300 to $350 per metric ton, whereas the imported price was $150 to $200 per metric ton a year ago.

The excessive rainfall in Bangladesh and the recent flood in onion producing states in India including Maharashtra, Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh, drastically affected the onion production. Moreover, Bangladesh depends on onion import from India to meet a portion of its annual demand due to inadequate domestic production.

As a result, retail price of onion has sparked at Tk 80 from Tk 25 to Tk 30, a 300 to 400 percent rise compared to last month. While visiting capital's different kitchen markets on Saturday, this correspondent found per kilogram of local onion was being sold at Tk 80 to Tk 90, which was Tk 40 to Tk 50 just 10 days ago.

Meanwhile, onion imported from India was found selling at Tk 60 to Tk 70 per kg, which was Tk 30 to Tk 4o per kg two weeks ago. In the wholesale market, local onion was selling at Tk 65 per kg, while imported onion at Tk 55 per kg. According to the Trading Corporation of Bangladesh (TCB) data, per kg onion was sold at Tk 45 to Tk 55 last week, which stood at Tk 60 to Tk 70 on Saturday.

The Union Government decided that the export of all varieties of onions would be permitted only on letter of credit (LC) subject to minimum export price (MEP) of $850 freight on board (FoB) per metric ton until further orders, the consumer affairs, food and public distribution ministry of India said in a statement issued On September 23.

Md Jafar Uddin, Secretary of the Commerce Ministry, on Tuesday told the reports that the government has taken an initiative to import onion from Myanmar, Egypt and other countries in order to reduce the price of onion at local markets. He also assured the traders that the onion price would reduce soon. However, in reality, the price has continued to soar instead of falling down.

Although the TCB has started selling onion at Tk45 per kg at five different places in the capital, such move has not yet made any impact on the local kitchen markets. Low-income groups become frustrated over the skyrocketing price of the onion. Arif, 40, a low-income private service holder, said "It is quite impossible to buy a kilogram of onion for Tk 80 with my small income. The government should take steps to control the price."