The government started open market sales (OMS) of onion across the country from Sunday to keep prices of the vegetable within the reach of commoners.
However, onion prices witnessed a further hike in India, the key exporting country of the vegetable, which might impact the Bangladeshi market, said the traders.
The Trading Corporation of Bangladesh (TCB)-run OMS trucks sold onion and other three essential items at 40 points in the city on Sunday.
Per truck sold 2.0-2.2 tonnes of onions on the day.
TCB spokesperson Humayun Kabir told the FE that the corporation's dealers are using 275 trucks as sales points across the country of which 40 trucks are in Dhaka, 10 in Chattogram, seven in Rangpur, five each in Mymensingh, Rajshahi, Khulna, Barishal, Sylhet, Bogura and Cumilla, three each in Jhenaidah and Madaripur and two each in the remaining district towns, including upazilas.
Apart from onion, the dealers are also selling sugar, soybean oil and lentil, he added.
Onion is being sold at Tk 30 per kg, sugar at Tk 50 per kg, lentil at Tk 50 per kg and soybean oil at Tk 80 per litre, he added.
OMS trucks received a good response until noon as many people thronged to buy onion at subsidised prices.
Dealers are expecting the crowd might surge notably in next one or two days as many people are yet to be aware of the sales.
However, TCB recorded 60-74 per cent hike in onion prices in the last two weeks as the price of the vegetable surged in neighbouring India.
Local onion was sold at Tk 60-70 a kg and imported Indian varieties at Tk 45-55 a kg on Sunday in Dhaka.
Meanwhile, Indian media reported a further hike in onion prices in many key points of the country.
Indian newspaper 'The Print' on September 11 reported that onion price might cross 100 rupees (BDT 119) a kg in October amid heavy rain that damaged early-Kharif season crop and Rabi stock of onion in India which is the main source of country’s onion.
The report said that over the last two weeks wholesale and retail prices more than doubled in several markets across India, including the largest wholesale onion market in Nashik.
Retail prices hit 50 rupee per kg in Mumbai and Kolkata, and 60 rupee per kg in Delhi from the mid-20s range, it said.
"Similarly, the wholesale rate in Nashik’s Lasalgaon, the country’s largest wholesale market of onions, has doubled to 29 rupee a kg as of 8 September from 12 rupee a kg on August 28", the report said.
Humayun Kabir Bhuiyan, secretary of Consumer Association of Bangladesh (CAB), said Bangladesh is highly dependent on imported onion and India is the key importing source for the country.
He suggested finding an alternative source like the previous year.
Mr Bhuiyan said that import should be increased from other countries, namely Myanmar, Turkey and Egypt to tackle any possible crisis like in 2019 when onion prices touched Tk 300 a kg, adding proper data on local production is also required to initiate timely import policy that we lack.
He praised the government's quick response to tackle the price hike of onion by inaugurating OMS programme across the country.
Narayan Chandra Saha, a Shyambazar-based importer in the city, said the import cost from India surged to $420-430 a tonne now, which was hardly $200 a tonne in August.
He said that the Indian government is yet to set any minimum export price (MEP).
Before India imposed MEP, we will have to raise the import o onions from elsewhere, he added.
Bangladesh produces 1.9-2.0 million tonnes of onions annually against the demand of 2.6-2.7 million tonnes.
The country imports 0.8-1.1 million tonnes of onions annually, mainly from India to meet the shortfall.