'Black September' for onions
Just as last year's September, onion price hike headlines are screaming in our electronic and print media. Rather unimaginably, onion price has gone up from Tk 60 to Tk 120 overnight. What is the explanation for the latest increase in onion price? Well, India's sudden decision to suspend the export of onions announced on Monday evening has shot up the price here.
The million dollar questions, hadn't the same happened in last year's September? Shouldn't our food authorities be prepared to face the crisis?
However, Bangladesh has requested the Indian government to withdraw the suspension of onion exports, but it does not seem to happen any time soon. The export ban of onions has sparked anger among our importers and traders while hundreds of trucks carrying an estimated 25,000 tonnes of onions were stranded on the Bangladesh border with West Bengal.
Failing to draw lessons from two abrupt export bans, it is time we enquire on the actual reasons on our high dependency on Indian onions. Earlier this year, the commerce minister said that 2019's export ban, without any notice was a lesson for us that prompted the government to boost local production by providing incentives to farmers and that we would not import onions from India. Moreover, the government had reportedly explored new countries for importing onions--Turkey, Egypt and Pakistan. Unfortunately, abnormally higher dependency on Indian onions have not come down, despite exploring newer countries most of our importers yet prefers Indian onions.
The government has repeatedly ensured that the country has sufficient stocks. Where are those stocks and why has the price gone up?
If stocked goods cannot be used in time of need while tackling an abrupt import ban, there is no use of those stocks.
However, the Trading Corporation of Bangladesh (TCB) is already selling onion and other daily necessities at a reasonable price. Some 275 trucks have been engaged in the process, which we feel is too limited.
The open market sales (OMS) scheme will bring ease for the consumers, once its scale is widened. Last year, during the spike in onion prices, several warehouses were fined by mobile courts for selling onions at exorbitant prices. This time the authorities must be even more vigilant in monitoring markets.
The pandemic and seasonal floods have already had an impact on the prices of daily essentials. We must ensure that the rising price of onions does not become another burden on the commoners who are already struggling.