AL Mamun Harun Ur Rashid :
To meet the growing demands of the onions every year against the local production, the dependence on importing onions is rising exponentially, forecasting an ominous sign of self-sufficiency to this agricultural produce.
Whenever the market becomes volatile under the pretext scarcity of onions or market manipulation by the ‘so-called’ syndicate, the government promptly announces opening of Letter of Credits (LCs) to import onions to alleviate the burning market.
With the announcement, the traders then started looking for foreign markets especially the Indian market for the proximity and availability as this kitchen item can be imported under low cost.
But sometimes the situation goes derailed when India slapped ban on exporting onions in a bid to meet the local demand first than to export the neighbouring countries.
Consumers experienced the dire situation when the onion prices rose to Tk 250 in the year 2019 as there was a huge demand of onion against the supply. At that time India banned exporting onions, making the situation graver.
Though the government is repeatedly urging countrymen to use every inch of land to expedite the agricultural produce as the demand for such item is growing against the local supply, but the dependency is by and large growing up.
According to the Tariff Commission, country’s annual demand for onions is around 27 to 28 lakh tonnes. Of these, 65-70 percent is met through local production and 30 to 35 percent of the annual demand for onions is met through imports.
Sources said that post-harvest losses of onions which stand around 25 percent are by and large responsible for the shortage of onions. Then import is the only way to cool onion-hungry market.
In the fiscal year 2022-23, the local production of onions was approximately 33.9 lakh tonnes. According to the data of Bangladesh Bank, 5.85 lakh tonnes of onions were imported during the period from July to November 2023.
Currently the onion market is very high for the consumers as per kilogram onions are being sold at Tk 120-Tk130.
Consumers are in fear that the market may volatile ahead of the Ramadan which is just one month away.
To tame the hungry onion market and to make it affordable the government has already requested India to export onions before Ramadan.
Foreign Minister Dr Hasan Mahmud on Monday requested Delhi to send 50,000 metric tonnes of onions before Ramadan.
But India has promised to supply only 20,000 tonnes of onions, as the minister said during a press conference at his ministry after ending his Delhi visit.
The minister in addition informed the journalists that he has also requested for one lakh metric tonnes of sugar while India has promised for 10,000 metric tonnes of sugar.
“We are heavily dependent on India for many essential commodities, especially onions, sugar, lentils, and spices. We discussed these issues with India’s Minister of Commerce and Industry, Piyush Goyal,” the minister said.
“I have told them to allocate special quotas for these essential commodities so that we can import these items from them at the right price and as per our needs. At least we can avail this benefit from them.”