SAM

Published:
2019-11-17 11:12:49 BdST

Onion maintains its top flight


FT ONLINE

Onion prices were hovering on Saturday around the same high level they reached the previous day, denting the consumers' hopes for a turnaround.

The local variety of onion was selling at Tk 250-260 a kg and the imported varieties (Egypt and China) at Tk 230- 235 a kg at the retail level in Dhaka.

Traders attributed the high prices of onion to the absence of sufficient supplies of the spice item to the markets.

Visiting the city's wholesale markets at Shyambazar, and Karwanbazar, the FT Team found a kg of the local variety of onion selling at Tk 230-240 and imported one at Tk 190- 220.

A trader of Khan and Sons Banijyalay at Karwan Bazar said that onion prices depending on their quality increased by around Tk 80 per kg in less than a week at the wholesale markets.

Vice-president of the Shyambazar wholesale onion market Md Mazed told the media on Saturday that prices of onion abruptly soared over the last few months due to a 'supply shortage' following the Indian ban on export.

He, however, expressed hope that the prices of onion would come down shortly, once the shipments of onion arrive and the newly-harvested onion hits the market.

On Friday last the local variety of onion at the city's retail kitchen market was sold at Tk 250 a kg and the imported varieties (from China and Myanmar) at Tk 220-Tk 230 a kg.

The price of the local variety was Tk 200 a kg and Tk 170 and imported varieties Tk 175-Tk 180 a kg and Tk 135-Tk 140 a kg on Thursday and Wednesday respectively at the retail level.

Consumers at the city's retail markets vented their utter frustrations over the skyrocketing prices of the spice item.

They called upon the government to intensify efforts to cool down the onion market.

They urged the government to increase the number of trucks engaged for selling onion at a subsidised rate in the open market.

The government's trading arm Trading Corporation of Bangladesh (TCB) is selling onion at Tk 45 a kg in the open market.

However, the first consignment of the onion being imported by a private business enterprise will arrive in the country on Tuesday, according to the ministry of commerce (MoC).

The private sector player S Alam Group, one of the country's leading conglomerates, will import the item from Egypt.

"We are expecting that the first consignment of onion from Egypt by S Alam Group will arrive in the country on Tuesday," spokesman of the MoC Abdul Latif Bakshi said on Saturday.

He said that shipments of the onion by other private business organisations would also arrive shortly.

However, the local administration in Chattogram sat with traders on the day in the wake of disposal of rotten onion in dustbins and on river banks amid the runaway prices of the essential kitchen item.

A trader claimed that around 150 to 200 sacks of onion were rotting almost every day in Chattogram after heavy rains caused by the cyclone Bulbul that struck the country last week.

Sources said at least 30-40 sacks of rotten onion were thrown into the river on Friday and around 20 tonnes were cleared from dustbins of the Chattogram City Corporation (CCC) on Thursday night.

Sources said importers, wholesalers and trade body leaders met at the office of the Deputy Commissioner (DC) in Chattogram on Saturday to discuss the stock situation and rotten onion.

Chattogram DC Mohammed Ilias Hossain said that the administration held a meeting with businessmen.

He said, "There are sufficient stocks of onion in Chattogram. Besides, ships carrying onion are reaching the seaport here. So, there is no question of onion shortage."

He said, "Businessmen regretted that the onion had been left to rot. They told me that someone might have bought the onion and thrown it into the river and dustbins to create a supply shortage in the market and thus harass the government."

"We are investigating the matter now. After investigation, we will take action in this regard. A team of the district administration is already on a field-visit today (Saturday)," he added.

Sources said prices of onion in wholesale markets at Khatunganj, Asadganj and Chaktai were Tk 150 to 165 a kg and in the retail market Tk 200 to 260 a kg on Saturday.

The stocks of onion in the wholesale markets at Khatunganj, Asadganj and Chaktai were adequate.

A total of 6,000 tonnes of onion reached Chattogram through the seaport here and around 11,000 tonnes through the Teknaf port so far.

Besides, importers opened LCs for importing a total of 66,162 tonnes from Egypt and China so far.

Several onion ships are on the way to Chattogram and trawlers carrying the essential kitchen item are reaching Teknaf almost every day, sources said.

CCC Conservancy Officer Mohammed Morshed Alam said, "Labourers of Khatunganj threw sacks of onion into the dustbins and the river. We are cleaning the dustbins and the river bank to avert environmental pollution."

The traders said the onion rotted as a long time was taken to transport the commodity from Myanmar to Chattogram. It rotted on the way to Chattogram from Myanmar, they added.

Abul Bashar, owner of Khatunganj Trading, said there are around 20 wholesale outlets of onion at Khatunganj. Around 150 to 200 sacks of onion are rotting almost every day at each of the wholesalers as heavy rains inundated the area on the day the cyclone Bulbul struck the country last week.

Mohammed Idris, general secretary of Chattogram Onion Importers Association, said, "The price in the wholesale markets is rising as a large quantity of onion rotted in the rain last week."

Sources said the Chattogram district administration is continuing raids and conducting mobile courts at the wholesale and retail markets in the port city to control the price hike.

The magistrates of Chattogram District Administration are leading the raids and mobile courts at wholesale markets and godowns at Khatunganj, Asadganj and Chaktai in the port city.

Sources in the administration said a 16-member syndicate was involved with the price hike of onion in Chattogram.

They were importing the item at low prices and selling at high prices in Chattogram and Cox's Bazar.

As a result, the prices of onion at the retail markets hit Tk 200 to 260 per kg in Chattogram and adjoining areas.

The administration's mobile courts nabbed four of them and the rest were yet to be netted.

Our Correspondent from Cox's Bazar told us that onion import from Myanmar through the Teknaf land-port remained stable and normal. But profit mongers were not reducing the prices.

According to port sources, a total of 11,532 tonnes of onion were imported from Myanmar in the 16 days of the current month.

Revenue Officer of the land-port Absar Uddin said, "We arranged quick unloading of imported onion so that traders can supply it rapidly to the markets".

Onion import from Myanmar remained stopped only for two days last week due to cyclone Bulbul, he said.

Buyers and locals alleged that prices of onion were not falling due to the profiteering motive of some traders.

Visiting some markets of Cox's Bazar and its adjoining areas on Saturday, FT Team found that onion was selling at Tk 170 to Tk 180 per kg against Tk 120-130 last week. Some super shops were selling onion at the rate of Tk 195 to Tk 200 per kg.

But traders always say that due to supply shortages and high transportation costs the prices are increasing.

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