The Indian export ban has rattled onion markets in South Asian countries, raising its prices to historic highs in recent years. Bangladeshi consumers are paying a price, second only to Maldives, compared to countries which also depend on imports mostly from India to fill the gap in local markets.
Even in India, where export prices rose to an exorbitant price before the country slapped a complete ban last month, had to open fixed-price outlets to help low-income people buy the essential commodity.
People in Mumbai are buying onions in grams, instead of a kilogram, as the price of the much-consumed vegetable jumped 500 times the price at the start of the year. Wholesale onion price was Rs1,908 per 40kg in New Delhi's onion hub, with retail prices shooting up to Rs80 per kilogram.
Apart from banning exports, the Indian government took more measures, such as emptying buffer stocks of 50,000 tonnes into the market and restricting stocks at traders' levels.
It also announced imports of 1 lakh tonnes to respond to local demand as onion is a highly sensitive item, with some media referring to "onion coup" in past Indian elections.
However, nothing prevented prices from soaring, with Madhya Pradesh – one of the key onion growing Indian states – opening kiosks to sell onion at Rs50 per kg in Bhopal, where the prices soared to Rs90 a kg.
In Kathmandu, onion prices surged to Rs150 per kg after the Indian ban dropped the supply of the commonly used item in most Nepali dishes.
Nepal started importing onions from China, although Chinese onions are not liked by Nepalese consumers.
Indian onions are smuggled into Nepal due to its high demand there.
Onion prices shot to Rs290 in Colombo, as supply from India stopped since the September 29 ban. Sri Lanka is importing the vegetable from Egypt and Pakistan.
In Karachi, onion prices soared to Rs90-100 last week, double price of last year. As Pakistan is set to export 300 tonnes ($600 per tonne) of onion, traders there are fearing further rise in local prices.
Pakistan is also importing onions to meet the local demand.
The item, almost a must in Bhutanese cooking too, is selling at Nu90, which is half the daily wage of workers. Workers have been affected the most by the surge in prices.
Prices also went up in Malaysia, the second largest importer of Indian onion. But the hike was limited to between 5 percent to less than 5 ringgits.
India is the world's largest onion exporter, shipping 22 lakh tonnes last year, making its neighbours dedicated buyers and solely dependent on its supplies in the process.
Drought and heavy rain damaged two successive onion harvests in India this year, requiring the country to stop exporting the item – commonly in high demand for dishes in the South Asian region.
Therefore, an abrupt halt of Indian supplies caught the governments and traders in neighbouring countries by surprise, and sent prices to eye-watering highs that caused nightmares in kitchens across South Asia.
In Maldives, onion prices soared to Rf50, more than 300 percent from the previous price, as traders failed to import onions from India. Although India stopped exporting onions, Maldives was exempted under a special arrangement.
Prices in Dhaka's kitchen markets spiked to Tk240, up by 150 percent from earlier this month and a 500 percent increase from the level before the Indian ban.
Afghanistan is the only exception as good harvest there brought down prices causing huge loss to growers. The country is exporting onions to Pakistan and India.