The commerce ministry has agreed to write to the National Board of Revenue, asking it to reduce the import duty on onions in order to cool down the heated-up market of the cooking ingredient.
A taskforce on commodity control took the decision at a meeting on Sunday, said a press release.
The meeting held with Commerce Secretary Md Zafar Uddin in the chair also decided to intensify nationwide market monitoring to control the stock, supply and price of onions and other essential commodities.
In the current fiscal year budget, the government has imposed 5% duty on onion imports. Finance Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal said the tariff would be imposed to ensure that farmers get fair prices for their produce.
Rising onion prices in India have affected Bangladesh's retail and wholesale markets in the last few days. Within a month, onion prices shot up by Tk15-20 per kg.
Against this backdrop, importers appealed to the commerce ministry recently to drop the duty, fearing an increase in the import price of onions.
According to the ministry, the country has an adequate stock of onions, and the imports are normal too. There is no compelling reason for an onion crisis or price hike.
The government will take strict legal action if anyone tries to increase prices by stockpiling onions illegally or creating an artificial crisis, they said.
To keep the supply and price normal, the Trading Corporation of Bangladesh will soon start selling onions on trucks in the open market at affordable prices, which will continue until new onions come to the market.
Onion traders on strike in Khatunganj
Meanwhile, onion traders at Chattogram's Khatunganj wholesale market on Monday kept their warehouses shuttered to protest mobile court raids there.
There was no trading on Monday as hundreds of onion warehouses remained closed since the morning.
Following the recent onion price spiral in India, the wholesale prices of the item at Khatunganj also rose to Tk38-43 per kg on Saturday last. It was alleged that some businessmen created an artificial crisis and increased the price intentionally.
On Saturday and Sunday, two executive magistrates of Chattogram district administration conducted a mobile court raid and fined 13 traders for hiking onion prices and failing to show the purchase invoice.
Traders claimed the mobile court has no legal basis to carry out the drive and fine traders as they are selling onions as commission agents, and so they went on strike.
"We have to follow the everyday price in line with that at the Bangladesh-India border. We are not importers but sell the goods of importers only as commission agents," said Mohammad Idris, general secretary of the Khatunganj Hamidullah Market Businessmen's Welfare Samiti.
He also said they were yet to decide whether the strike would continue on Tuesday.
When contacted, Md Omar Faruk, executive magistrate of Chattogram district administration, said "We are conducting our drives as part of market monitoring. Warehouse-keepers were making profit by fixing the price with importers over a phone call, but keeping no business documents with them. It is not acceptable."
The sudden rise in onion prices in the wholesale market was having an impact on the retail market. As a result, the onion market was becoming unstable from both sides, he also said.
"We are continuing our regular campaigns in the wholesale and retail markets so that onion prices do not go up,"Faruk added.