Published: 21 Nov 2020, 10:37 pm
Warehouse owners and traders of Khatunganj were seen dumping hundreds of sacks of rotten onions in what is the country's biggest wholesale market for commodities, but prices of the spicy bulb remained sticky upwards at the retail level.
While some wholesalers are getting entire 50-kilogram sacks full of onions (mostly rotten) at Tk 10, they are then picking out the good ones and supplying the retailers after selection.
Locals said the rotten onions were imported from different foreign countries.
In some cases, warehouse owners are hiring private vehicles for the rotten onions' disposal, triggering huge losses to the importers.
Besides, onions were being sold at Tk 60 to Tk 80 per kg in different shops and kitchen markets in the city.
After visiting a local shop at Kazirdeuri, UNB correspondent found that domestic onions are available at Tk 80 while imported ones at Tk 60 to Tk 80.
Hundreds of sacks of onions were seen left abandoned in front of the wholesale outlets in Khatunganj.
Onion traders said the rapid onset of rot in the imported onions has been caused by poor packaging and handling during the shipping stage.
Jarif Trade International's Manjur Morshed said the correct temperature was not set in the onions' storage area while they were being shipped.
Mamunur Rashid, of another importing firm Nazrul and Sons, said “We are unable to recover at least 20 percent of invested money, as a large portion of onions are rotten and emitting bad odor.”
Some other traders said they sell imported onions at Tk 40 to Tk 50 normally but now they are selling them at Tk 15 to Tk 5, plus also spending money on hiring vehicles to carry the rotten onions, they said.
Khatunganj Hamidullah Mia Market Warehouse Samity Joint General Secretary Md Mintu said “We are counting losses in crores but the government or administration have no headache. They are not monitoring this."
Bangladesh’s annual demand for the popular kitchen item ranges between 2.2 and 2.5 million tonnes.
Commerce Ministry figures show the amount imported was hardly 0.4 million tonnes in FY09 but had touched up to 1.1 million tonnes in recent years. Almost the entire amount used to be imported from India till 2019.
India’s abrupt ban on onion exports in September, for the second consecutive year, pushed up the prices in the local market. Following the 2019 experience, the government decided to take necessary steps to keep the stock, supply and price of onion at a normal level, mainly by importing from other countries. Or so it was thought.
Ministry caught napping
In October, the Commerce Ministry said onions imported at public and private levels have started reaching the country. Drives conducted by the National Consumers Rights Protection Directorate under the Commerce Ministry and the local administrations have been strengthened while the tariff on onion import has been withdrawn.
The government is providing all-out support to the importers while importance has been given to supplying and transporting onion to the local market.
Onion is currently being imported from different countries and the ministry says there is no reason to panic. It also warned of taking legal actions against those involved in hoarding or creating artificial crises of onion.