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Onion prices explode

*Storm in parliament, as market goes haywire *Calls get louder to launch urgent probe


FE REPORT | Published: November 15, 2019 10:37:49 | Updated: November 15, 2019 14:46:22


The price of the local variety of onion went through the roof as it hit Tk 200 a kg at the retail level on Thursday.

Even the previous day the price was hovering at Tk 170 a kg, traders and consumers at different kitchen markets in the city told the FE.

The onion, imported from China and Egypt, was sold at Tk 175-Tk 180 a kg on Thursday against Tk 135-140 a kg the previous day.

Retailers at different kitchen markets in the capital city told the FE that they had to purchase the local variety of onion from the wholesalers at Tk 180-185 a kg and the imported variety at Tk 160-Tk 170 a kg.

They had to purchase the spice item from the wholesalers at higher rates, so they were selling it at high prices, they said.

The price of the spice item had been witnessing an upward trend over the last couple of months. It soared to Tk 160 a kg in the wholesale market on Wednesday last.

Traders at the Shyambazar wholesale market told the FE on Thursday that they were selling the local onion at Tk 180-Tk185 a kg. The prices of onion imported from Egypt and China ranged between Tk 160 and Tk 170 per kg.

A trader at the Shyambazar wholesale market said they had to purchase onion directly from the Katunganj market in Chattogram.

He said if the onion prices are up in Chattogram, then they have no other alternative to increasing the rates in the capital.

He said different private business organisations ordered for shipment of 10-12 thousand tonnes of onion.

He said the consignments would arrive at the Chattogram seaport within the next few days. That would help stabilise the exploding onion market.

A woman trying to purchase onion getting onto a truck selling the item near the Secretariat in the city on Thursday — FE photo

The consumers urged the government to take immediate actions for stabilising the market.

They suggested more immediate open market sale (OMS) of onion by the state-run Trading Corporation of Bangladesh (TCB).

It should increase the number of trucks selling onion at different points across the city, they said.

The TCB has long been selling the essential item at Tk 45 a kg in the city.

However, an inter-ministerial monitoring team fined three traders at the Shyambazar wholesale market on Thursday for not displaying their price lists.

The traders failed to show money receipts and prove that they had purchased the item at high prices.

Directorate of National Consumer Rights Protection's (DNCRP) Abdul Jabbar Mandal led the team comprising representatives from the ministries of commerce, agriculture and food and the city corporation.

The monitoring team raided M/S Banijyalaya, Nit Banijyalaya, Sikder and Sons and fined them Tk 20,000 as they were selling the local onion at Tk 170-Tk 180.

Earlier commerce minister Tipu Munshi assured the consumers that the prices of onion would come down to a tolerable level within a short span of time.

But there was no sign of abatement of prices in the onion markets, consumers said.

However, the prices of different varieties of rice increased by Tk 2-Tk 2 a kg on Thursday at the retail markets in the city.

Medium quality Birridhan 28 and 29 and Paijam rice were selling at Tk 46-47 a kg, miniket rice Tk 54-64 a kg, Najirshail Tk 60-72 a kg and Swarna, a coarse variety of rice, Tk 42-43 a kg at the city's retail markets on Thursday, according to traders and consumers.

UNB adds: Members from both treasury and opposition benches in parliament on Thursday shared their concerns over the exorbitant prices of onion in the domestic market.

An opposition MP demanded that price manipulators be killed in crossfire, as happened to drug peddlers, to set an example.

Jatiya Party MP Mujibul Haque Chunnu urged Home Minister Asaduzzamn Khan and Commerce Minister Tipu Munshi to investigate whether there was any conspiracy against the government to undermine its achievements.

He said drug peddlers were found to be caught and killed in gunfights with cops. "Let a few of them who pushed up onion prices (artificially) die. Then that will set an example."

Chunnu sought an urgent drive to find out the reasons as he believed there was a huge stock of onion in the domestic market.

He said Bangladesh maintains very good relations with India and mentioned that farmers there were crying as onion was selling only at Tk (rupee) 8 per kg.

Chunnu sought Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's personal initiative to import onion from India.

He said the price of onion was Tk 80 per kg on Tuesday. It hit Tk 150 on Wednesday and Tk 200 on Thursday.

Senior Awami League MP Mohammad Nasim raised the issue first taking floor on a point of order joined by Tofail Ahmed, Chunnu and AL MP ASM Feroz.

Nasim criticised Commerce Minister Tipu Munshi for his remark that the onion price was unlikely to fall below Tk 100 per kg anytime soon.

"The onion price is almost Tk 200 per kg. The businessmen take the opportunity when the Commerce Minister said the onion prices will not fall below Tk 100 per kg." he said.

The senior AL parliamentarian demanded immediate and effective steps to bring the onion price under control.

Another veteran AL lawmaker, Tofail Ahmed, demanded withdrawal of import duty on onion to bring down its price in the local market.

Noting that the Finance Minister has the responsibility, he said, "If you (Finance Minister) today announce that there is zero import duty on onion, it'll definitely have an impact on the market."

Tofail said they never thought in the past that the onion price would go up to Tk 200 per kg.

talhabinhabib@yahoo.com

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