Prospects of onion production & marketing in Bangladesh
Onion is one of the most profitable crops which is used in our daily meal in Bangladesh. It is quintessential ingredient in many delicious, especially ones involving meat. It is also a cultural demand during the different festivals like Eid, Puja and other religious occasions. It has also huge demand all over the world and also used as medicinal plant or herb.
In terms of world production, onion ranks second among the fifteen vegetable specified according to Food and Agriculture Organizati (FAO). Onion is cultivated almost all over the world, mainly in winter. Bangladesh has supportive climate and adequate resources for onion production, processing, and marketing, etc.
Onion productions were 2.33 million metric tons in 2018-2019 in Bangladesh. But it may not fulfil the demand for our country due to increase in population day by day and diversified use of onion round year. At present we need 3.60 million metric tons of onions per year. There are several uses for onions including pickling, chutney, sauces, and dehydrated ones. Import of onion from outside is being done very often and in 2018-2019, Bangladesh imported about 0.27 million metric tons of onion.
But the average yield of onion in the country is about 10.5t/ha which is lower than expectoration. The reason of his low yielding could be identified as poor planting materials, low use of fertilizer, weed infestation, use of inferior quality seed, lack of plant protection measures further aggravates the situation in lowering yields and depressed quality, and sometimes natural calamities and faces disaster.
Though subjected to annual variations, overall area and production of onions in Bangladesh have shown an increasing trend during the past couples of years. The good onion crop and market price help the farmers as cash cow by using of improved agricultural practices may increase the yield of crop but genetically superior genotype can play a remarkable role in increasing the yield of onion crop.
The data of department of agricultural marketing reveals that in the fiscal year 2018-2019 onion was cultivated on around 0.026 million hectares of land in Bangladesh contributing to a production of 2.33 million metric tons. And from fy2012-13 to fy2016-17, onion production in the country increased by 59 per cent. The annual consumption was about 2.60 million metric tons during that time while the amount of imports was 10.07 metric tons and post harvest losses were around 20 per cent.
The constraints and problems affecting onion business development in Bangladesh could be categorized into several types including effective policy and institutional support, production environment, capacity building, infrastructure, finance, women attitude, and inputs and inputs marketing support. Marketing of surplus produce of onion during the year of over production in a particular area in sometime is a great concern which creates multiplier problems. In recent years Bangladesh economy has gathered experience of repeated volatility in prices of essential commodity, onion. The cultivated onion is one of the important condiments widely used in all households.
According to field survey, there were so many problems found or lacking on onion productions such as lacking in supply of high yielding producing seed, high labour cost, specifying crop diseases, supply of quality pesticides, climate change, high price of inputs, access to finance and capital, separate land, transportation, available market, market regulations, price fluctuation, lack of improved or modern machineries, lack of processing centre and specialized onion cold storages, untrained and unskilled manpower and other technological disadvantages.
A study conducted by International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) predicted that the demand for onion is expected to increase by 51 per cent this decade-from 1.23 million metric tons in 2010 to 1.86 million metric tons in 2020-under the business-as-usual scenario.
During this time it's expected that it will increase by 69 per cent to 2.08 million metric tons. The IFPRI study recommended that the government ensure a structured and regulated flow of the locally produced onions by being vigilant against speculative storage between September and December, when Bangladesh is most dependent on onion imports. They also suggested that in order to mitigate the dependency on onion imports, steps must be taken to increase domestic production.
To overcome the barriers related to onion production and marketing, government should take steps to help the onion producers in reducing production cost. The availability of fertilizers and seeds, fair price and storing facility must be ensured. At the same time training programme should be offered to the onion producers.
To step up the production of onion the cultivation process should be more technology oriented and. The farmers should be provided soft loan or easy access to finance, proper storages facilities, regular market monitoring, gather market information, formation of market committee, update market assessment supply chain development in lean period or off season period and reduce the post harvest losses, ensure market control and market price ,uniform market structure for onion that fits all regions across the country, develop onion production zone or special onion production zone, increase summer onion productions and alternative spices ,strong research extension linkage and technology. Ensure to get an idea about the international market and review the policies and regulations time to time regarding production, demand, supply, import, export and marketing of onion in Bangladesh.
It is necessary to improve farm management practices, leading to better quality and high yields. New way of cultivation should be introduced targeting markets' requirements and to be self-sufficient. Pack-houses with grading and packing facilities should be developed at farm level. The onion processing industries should introduce value added products such as onion flakes, onion powder, and fried onion in the market .Incentive and subsidy should be given to the concerned onion stakeholders.
The government should have proper mechanism to control price by declaring minimum support price or fix rate based on production. As part of the long term strategy the actual scenario of demand and supply of onion, accurate data are needed.
Seminar, workshop, symposium conference road show, campaign, fare and festivals, should be conducted to create awareness on good agricultural practice. Accelerating double digit growth, employment generation, reducing poverty and inequality, ensuring good governance are the predominant goals of the current development paradigm in Bangladesh. So, initiatives should be taken to increase the productivity of onion where majority of small and marginal farmers have been growing onion on less than acre of land, keeping a view this aspect, the policy makers should frame the policy both for increasing the production and marketing facilities.
Last but not least, a holistic approach backed by strong political and professional desires and implementation are utmost necessary to boost up the onion production in Bangladesh. The policy makers, researchers, extension agencies, market actors should take appropriate policies to increase onion production for self-sufficiency.
The writer is a former DGM,
Bangladesh Krishi Bank