Onion owes back to haunt
Despite an adequate stock, the price of onion has been soaring in the country in retail and wholesale markets for the last few days. Onion suppliers are blamed to make higher profits unethically--with the artificial price hike--up to Tk15 a kg. In reality, there is no onion crisis in the country; therefore there is no valid reason of increasing the price. Amid an evil attempt by unscrupulous traders of creating an artificial crisis, panicked stricken helpless consumers are being forced to buy extra onions in advance causing further price hike.
A kg onion was selling at Tk22-25 in wholesale markets which jumped to Tk35-38 on Friday--up by 50-60%. In retail markets, it is now selling at Tk40-45 per kg. Local varieties of onions are the majority in markets now, selling at Tk45 per kg in retail, while Indian varieties, selling at Tk40 per kg.
A few days ago, on 6 May, The Department of Agricultural Extension suspended onion imports, fearing that continued imports could cause a drastic price fall of local onions. In order to protect the local farmers' interest, onion import ban was implemented. Capitalising on the import halt, the unscrupulous businessmen are making extra profit.
However, a portion of demand for onions is met with imports. According to the Ministry of Agriculture, Bangladesh consumes some 26-27 lakh tonnes of onions annually, of which the country produces some 22-23 lakh tonnes.
Now question rises, if farmers benefit from price hike. The flat answer is no. The onion farmers do not get the benefits of the import halt, since majority of them sold the produce months ago--right after the harvest. Consequently, the middlemen are utilising the opportunity. Onion farmers had to cost over Tk20 to grow a kg of onion this year. Those who sold their onion in the beginning of the onion harvesting season could not even have production costs, and those who preserved or harvested onion late could make a little profit. However, none of them could make profits proportionate to the current price hikes.
Apart from onion, prices of eggs, lentil, garlic and several other commodities increased over the past week, creating a burden for consumers. Since the middlemen are taking advantage, the government should address the issue first. The government policy should be suspending imports on time--with the beginning of local onion harvesting. Because of the late import ban the farmers are not the beneficiary because of price hike. On the contrary the consumers are in trouble since they have to spend more, while they are not able to increase their income. Therefore, they have to eat less now.
The government should strengthen market monitoring in order to restore stability in the kitchen market. In addition to that, the authorities concerned should take initiatives against the unscrupulous businessmen so that nobody dares to engage in market manipulation.