About 13 percent of the local demand for garlic is met through imports where China is a major supplier.
The grim shadows of coronavirus have hit the price of garlic as exports from China have stopped. So, the Bangladesh Trade and Tariff Commission suggested the government to import garlic from Malaysia and Egypt to keep the market stable.
The commission recently submitted a report on alternative sources of garlic and ginger import to the commerce ministry. The report recommends for the countries from which traders could easily import the two cooking ingredients.
The actual production of garlic, against the demand of about six lakh tonnes, in the fiscal year 2018-19 was 5.22 lakh tonnes. Bangladesh imported 52,461 tonnes during the July-December period in 2019, says the report. Of the amount, about 96 percent was imported from China, two percent from Myanmar and one percent from India.
However, Bangladesh is not the only country that depends on China for garlic. The East Asian giant supplies 66.8 percent of garlic globally.
Analysing fifteen exporting countries' markets, the commission suggested the businessmen to import the item from Malaysia and Egypt, given their geographical position.
"We can make a good use of such recommendations when we get them fast. Through onion imports, we have already built a good contact with Egyptian businessmen. Now it will be easy for us to import garlic," an onion and garlic importer of Shyambazar, Haji Md Majed, told The Business Standard.
Not only garlic, ginger in a large portion is also imported from China.
During the July-December period in 2019, the report says, 69,481 tonnes of ginger were imported against the local demand of three lakh tonnes. Of the amount, 41 percent was imported from China, 28 percent from India and 21 percent from Myanmar.
However, the commission suggested for importing ginger, for now, from Vietnam, Pakistan and Indonesia, instead of China.
Ginger and garlic importers said the problem with importing from China is sudden. But it has not led to a crisis like that of onion. The government has started advising the importers before the situation worsens.
"Ginger is coming from India regularly as imports from China remains suspended now. The item's import from India will rise further," said Harun Ur Rashid, president of the importers' group in Hili port.
Also, some other importers said as onions are coming from Pakistan, it will make imports of ginger from that country quite easy.
As Bangladesh's import of garlic and ginger from China remains suspended, the prices of the two types of spice are still high in Dhaka. On Friday, imported garlic was sold for Tk200-220 per kilogram. Around 10 days ago, imported garlic was sold for Tk150-160 per kg.
Local garlic is now available at a slightly lower price, the highest rate being Tk200 per kg.
Also, the consumers had to spend Tk180-190 a kg to buy imported ginger which was sold for Tk200 per kg a week ago. However, the local garlic is now available at Tk110-120 per kg.