The commerce ministry believes there is no reason to panic about the onion price hike as it claims to have sufficient stock of the item to be able to bring prices under control 'within the next 24 hours.'
Open market sale of onions, which started on Monday, would help to reduce its retail price in the city, said commerce secretary Dr Md Zafar Uddin, at a press briefing on Tuesday.
"We have adequate amounts of onion in stock and import stage. No one needs to panic," he said.
The commerce secretary further added that about 142 trucks loaded with imported onions were waiting at the land ports of Bhomra, Sonamasjid, Hili and Benapole land ports.
According to the secretary, the government is also considering the option of importing onions from Myanmar.
Shah Md Abu Raihan Alberuni, a member of Bangladesh Tariff Commission, informed the briefing that the country has 16 lakh tonnes of onions in stock, stating that should be enough. LCs (letters of credit) were settled for the import of another 12,71,820 tonnes onion till September 12.
Bangladesh needs 24 lakh tonnes of onions every year.
"We produce 23.76 lakh tonnes of onion. Of the amount, approximately 30 percent (7.5 lakh tonnes) goes rotten. We import 10-11 lakh tonnes every year to meet our needs," he added.
Alberuni further said LCs for another 40,000 tonnes have been awaiting settlement with Bangladesh Bank (BB).
On September 13, India set the minimum export price of onions at $850 per tonne to protect their local market price as recent floods hampered onion output in the state of Maharashtra.
Barely a day later, onion prices in the retail markets rose from Tk45 per kilogram to Tk70 per kg.
The minimum export price usually stays in between $250-$300, he added. The sudden increase in export price also increased the price of onion in Bangladesh.
Trading Corporation of Bangladesh (TCB) started selling onion in the open market from Monday to control the situation. It will continue for the next one and half month.
The ministry has already sent some recommendations to BB to revise bank interest rates and decrease LC margin for onion import.
The Directorate of National Consumer Rights Protection is monitoring the market.
Alberuni hoped that India would lower onion price in November after arrival of new harvest.
Bangladesh farmers will be able to harvest new onion by second week of December, the tariff commission member added.
TCB sells onion at Tk45
TCB is selling locally grown onion by TK 45 per kilogram through five trucks each loaded with one tonne. Sale is limited to 2 kg per head.
"We have started onion's open market sales to mitigate hurdles of poor people as prices of the item hiked in the kitchen markets," said Humayun Kabir, spokesperson for the state-owned trading agency.
The trucks will cover 10 areas including Press Club, Secretariat, Farmgate, Mohammadpur, Mirpur-14, Kachukhet, Jatrabari, Sayedabad, Motijheel and adjacent areas.
The open market sale of onion was initiated as prices of the items hiked by TK15 to TK20 per kg in kitchen markets.
Local onion was selling at Tk 70 to 80 per kg and imported ones at Tk 60 to 62 in the city's retail market on Tuesday .
Sabuj Hossain, a consumer at Dayaganj kitchen market said, "Price has gone up by Tk20 per kg just in a week."
The Indian agricultural authority on September 13 raised onion export price to $850 per tonne, immediately affecting onion prices in Bangladesh.
Till September 12, onion sold at Tk40 to Tk45 per kg.
At present, the cost of imported onion is Tk52 to Tk53 per kg, which is Tk54 to Tk55 in the wholesale market and Tk60 to Tk65 at the retail market.
Bangladeshi businessmen complained that India raises onion export price every year citing supply shortage.
"Though we had previously issued LCs now we have to pay extra money for importing onion," said Tuhin Shaha, an importer from Jashore.
Nazrul Islam, manager of Hamid Enterprise in Khulna said he imported 122 tonnes of onion on September 15 with a price of $855 per tonne.
Rafiqul Islam Royal, a clearing and forwarding agent at Benapole land port, said onion price would fall only after the Indian government reduces export price.
Deputy Director (Traffic) of Benapole Land Port Mamun Kabir Tarafder said, abrupt hike in export price by India caused decline in onion import.
Uttam Chakma, deputy commissioner at Benapole Customs House said that the amount of onion import from India through Benapole Land Port is very low.