Taking advantage of the ongoing instability in Bangladesh's onion market, many wholesalers are making a hefty profit by artificially hiking the price of this essential commodity citing a supply shortage.
"Whenever there is instability in the onion market, one of the wholesalers makes a phone call to any of the traders at a market. After just one phone call, every trader in that market changes the price of onions," said Ashraf Ali, a shop owner at Karwan Bazar in Dhaka.
Ashraf further said that he has already been instructed by a wholesaler to sell onions that arrived from Pabna this Wednesday for Tk175 per kg.
Visiting Karwan Bazar on Wednesday, The Business Standard found that onions are being sold for Tk170 per kg, while a nearby list hanging on a wall sets the onion price at Tk160 per kg.
This supports several traders' statement that wholesalers artificially hiked the price of onions.
Meanwhile, onions are being sold for Tk160-165 in retail markets throughout the capital, which is Tk20-25 higher than the price two days ago.
Abdur Razzak, a grocer at Rampura Bazar said he had bought onions for Tk150 per kg on Monday, and he is now selling those for Tk160 per kg.
Onions imported from Egypt and Turkey are selling for Tk130-140 in the capital's retail markets.
The unloading of imported onions at Chattogram port was suspended for nearly three days due to cyclone Bulbul. Many traders are using this as an excuse to maintain the instability in the onion market.
On November 8, Shyam Bazar Banik Samity of Old Dhaka fixed the price of onions in a bid to stabilise the market. The association set the price at Tk80-85 per kg of onions imported from Myanmar and Tk55-60 per kg of onions imported from Egypt, Turkey and China.
They did not set a price for local onions, but it was selling for Tk90 during that period.
The traders of Shyam Bazar have halted the sale of onions at the fixed price, using the excuse of not being able to unload shipments of imported onions from Chattogram port due to cyclone Bulbul.
Commenting on the matter, Shyambazar Banik Samity President Md Sayeed said, "We had fixed the price of onions after facing pressure. Till Saturday, onions at almost all wholesale markets were being sold for the price set by us.
"However, the supply of onions stopped because of the cyclone."
There are allegations that many traders at the market are selling onions in secret for exorbitant prices, and trade association President Md Sayeed acknowledged that such allegation are true.