The prices of onions have started to shoot up ahead of Ramadan.
The local variety of the cooking staple, the demand for which spikes during Ramadan, has witnessed a price surge of up to Tk10 a kilogram in the span of a week, according to a market analysis of the Trading Corporation of Bangladesh (TCB).
Yesterday, locally produced onions were being sold for Tk45-50 per kilogram in Dhaka's kitchen markets, up from Tk35-40 a week earlier.
Meanwhile, the price of imported onions has surged to Tk35-40, up by Tk5 from that in the last week.
Wholesalers in the capital's Karwan Bazar have claimed imported onions are in short supply because of the outbreak of Covid-19, shifting dependence completely on the local variety.
Besides, many wholesalers have gone to their village homes, shutting down their businesses, as many truck drivers are not willing to transport goods during the pandemic, they said. They added that whoever was willing to carry them were charging extra fares.
All this has resulted in a surge in the prices of onions, they argued.
Ashraful Haque, an onion trader and warehouse owner in Karwan Bazar, explained that since the supply shortfall of imported onions has led to additional dependence on the local variety, traders have to spend extra money to keep the supply of the item normal amid the current coronavirus crisis.
Despite such explanations, there are allegations that traders are hiking the price of onions ahead of Ramadan. The onion market was stable before the general holiday was imposed on March 26. Moreover, prices went down to some extent as there was a fall in the number of buyers in the market.
Alongside onions, prices of garlic and ginger – two other fast moving commodities in the month of Ramadan – have also begun to shoot up.
According to TCB data, locally grown ginger saw a Tk30-50 hike in its price per kilogram over the past one week, while the price of the imported variety has jumped by Tk100-120. On Saturday, local ginger was being sold for Tk150-200 a kilogram, while the imported one was being sold for Tk250-280 per kilogram.
On the other hand, the price of imported garlic remained unchanged although that of the local variety went up.
Traders again cited the coronavirus crisis that has led to a halt in export-import activities as the reason behind the increase in the price of local garlic.
Data provided by the Trade and Tariff Commission say 96 percent of the imported garlic of Bangladesh comes from China. Import has declined drastically due to the coronavirus pandemic, putting additional pressure on locally-grown garlic.
Manzur Mohammad Shahriar, deputy director of the Directorate of National Consumer Rights Protection, told The Business Standard that the directorate is conducting regular monitoring of the market.
He also warned of stern action being taken if any businessman tries to make the market unstable ahead of Ramadan.