With a pause of nearly twelve days, wholesale onion prices have started soaring again in the capital. Both the wholesale prices of locally-grown and imported onions surged by Tk15-20 per kilogramme Monday, almost overnight – which may affect retail prices.
Though the traders are pointing fingers at a supply crunch for the recent hike, consumer rights activists have said it is nothing but another ploy by the businessmen.
On Monday, local onions cost Tk85-86 per kilogramme at Shyambazar – the largest onion wholesale market in the capital. They were at Tk64-65 just the previous day. Meanwhile, prices of the imported bulb rose to Tk80 per kilogramme with a Tk15-20 hike in a single day.
Burmese onions were Tk80 and Pakistani onions Tk70 per kilogramme at the wholesale market that day. The imported categories of the cooking essential were Tk60 and Tk50 the previous day.
Shyambazar traders claimed that the state-run trading corporation was purchasing the bulb from the market in bulk, which created a vacuum in supply and prompted the price hikes.
"The crunch in supply is huge. It is unlikely to be resolved until big imported consignments hit the market," Shyambazar trader Haji Md Majed told The Business Standard.
Neighbouring India slapped a ban on onion exports on 14 September to curb the rising price of the cooking ingredient on its market.
Onion prices in Bangladesh had been rising since the beginning of September, and India's export restrictions further fueled the spiralling prices as prices of the cooking staple shot up to Tk120 per kilogramme.
Subsequently, the government initiated numerous measures, including a 5% import duty waiver and allowing onion imports on credit for 90 days, to rein in the soaring market.
The Trading Corporation of Bangladesh (TCB) launched sales of the cooking essential at Tk30 on the open market and Tk36 per kilogramme online to cap the rising prices.
In the meantime, importers also started exploring alternatives to India. In the third week of September, news broke that nearly six lakh tonnes of onions should arrive by sea in the next two months from at least seven countries. In the last week of the previous month, Burmese and Pakistani onions arrived at Chattogram Port.
According to Monday's kitchen market analysis of the TCB, imported onions were Tk90-110 per kilogramme though the price of local onions remained almost unchanged.
TCB says imported onion prices are 122.22% higher compared to one month ago.
However, Executive Director of Conscious Consumers Society Palash Mahmud termed the price hikes illogical.
He said, "There is no scope for any fresh hike now as we have enough in stock. The traders are trying to destabilise the market through syndication."
While contacted, Assistant Director to the Directorate of National Consumer Rights Protection (DNCRP) Mohammad Abdul Jabbar Mandal said they were constantly monitoring the market and stern action would be taken if anyone tries to destabilise the prices abruptly.
Green chilli joins onion's rally
Apart from onion, green chilli prices surged by Tk20-40 in retail recently to reach Tk220-240 per kilogramme. The price of the cooking ingredient had already been high for quite a long time.
Retailers say flooding has ruined green chilli production, raising market dependency on imported ones.
Traders said the price of green chilli is on the rise in India. At Hili Land Port, the cooking ingredient's price rose by Tk15-20 per kilogramme to reach Tk125-135, recently.
This has affected the green chilli wholesale market as it was at Tk150-155 per kilogramme at Dhaka's Karwan Bazar Monday.
Karwan Bazar green chilli wholesaler Md Sumon said the price of imported chilli is increasing regularly and wholesalers have to sell it in line with that.