Despite a two-day reprieve from price increases, the price of onions remains anchored at its elevated level on Monday.
The government, however, has taken a series of measures to control the market, including intensifying field-level surveillance and requesting the release of 3,400 tonnes of onions from India through the Trading Corporation of Bangladesh (TCB).
Multiple government agencies, including the Ministry of Agriculture (MoA), project a decrease in onion prices within the next week due to the arrival of the new season's harvest. Additionally, the government emphasises that onion imports have increased by 1.5 lakh tonnes compared to the previous year, indicating an unreasonable justification for the recent price increase.
However, market observations reveal that traders have doubled the price of new season onions, reaching Tk 140-160 per kg, compared to last year's price.
Following India's announcement of extending its onion export ban until March 2024, prices began to climb significantly last Friday and continued to rise through Saturday. In certain markets, local onion prices surpassed Tk 220 per kg, a dramatic increase from the Tk 110-120 range observed just two days prior.
According to sources from the Commerce Ministry, TCB has opened a Letter of Credit (LC) for importing 5,000 tonnes of onions from India. While 1,600 tonnes have already arrived, the Ministry has requested the Indian government to expedite the release of the remaining 3,400 tonnes.
The MoA, in a press release issued on Sunday, confirmed that 5,71,534 tonnes of onions have been imported since July, which is 1.55 lakh tonnes more than this time last year.
The press release further mentioned that Murikata and summer variety onions have entered the market.
The Ministry estimates an annual Murikata onion production of approximately 800,000 tonnes. Additionally, summer variety production is expected to reach 50,000 tonnes this year. Following this, the main onion harvest will begin, with potential production ranging from 26 to 28 lakh tonnes.
Based on these factors, the Ministry expresses confidence in an imminent decrease in onion prices.
Meanwhile, Cabinet Secretary Md Mahbub Hossain confirmed that while onions were not explicitly discussed in the cabinet meeting, relevant ministries received separate instructions.
He said, “You can see that there is close monitoring now at the field level, and it is having some impact today. The trend of price increases till yesterday is not there today.”
The government's directive emphasises increased field-level surveillance and vigilance toward individuals engaging in price manipulation or attempting to exploit the situation for personal gain. Those individuals will be brought under the purview of the law.
Meanwhile, Chattogram District Commissioner Abul Bashar Mohammad Fakhruzzaman requested traders not to sell onion at a price higher than Tk 120-125 per kg.
He made this request in a discussion meeting with the importers of the district at his office on Monday.
“If I discover goods stored in any warehouse without proper documentation, I will seize them immediately. This applies not only to onions but also to sugar. All importers must provide complete information and accurate documentation. No leniency will be granted in the absence of proper paperwork,” the DC said.