Commerce Minister Tipu Munshi has announced that Bangladesh will get a consignment of 50,000 tonnes of onions by air cargo and another 12,000 tonnes by sea, starting from November 20 midnight.
He made the statement at a press conference at the secretariat on Tuesday.
The minister added that one of the onion consignments was supposed to arrive in Bangladesh on Tuesday, but was delayed due to schedule complications.
"The government has started importing onions by air and sea under a special initiative. A Saudi Airlines flight carrying onions from Egypt is on its way to Dhaka. The plane will arrive at Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport on November 20 midnight," said the minister.
Tipu Munshi further said, "From November 20-25, regular consignments of onions carried by passenger and cargo flights will arrive in Dhaka every day. The Trading Corporation of Bangladesh will supervise the sale of imported onions, and the government will provide a subsidy.
"As soon as the plane carrying a consignment of onions arrives in Dhaka on Wednesday, around 400-500 trucks will transport them to every corner of the country. This will help in lowering the price of onions."
The Bangladesh government and traders had made plans to import onions from Egypt, Turkey and the Netherlands after India banned onion exports and Myanmar pumped up prices.
Initially the government and traders planned to import the kitchen ingredient by sea, but it was taking too time. So, they decided to import onions by air.
The minister said, "Bangladesh has a demand of 6,000 tonnes of onions per day. The stockpile and the imports will be enough to meet this demand for several days. Local onions will soon enter the domestic market, ending the ongoing shortage.
"We import around 8-10 lakh tonnes of onions every year and most of those come from India. We must become self-sufficient in onion production and decrease our dependence on India. Farmers will be provided with subsidies in this regard."
According to revenue board data, Bangladesh imported 472,578 tonnes of onions from Australia, China, Egypt, India, Japan, Myanmar, Pakistan, Slovenia, Thailand, Turkey and United Arab Emirates, from September 1 to November 18 this year.
During that period, the largest consignments of onions totaling 431,024 tonnes was imported from India.
Government to buy rawhide directly from traders
The government will directly buy rawhides from traders through the Trading Corporation of Bangladesh starting next year, Commerce Minister Tipu Munshi said.
The minister added that the initiative has been taken to break the syndicate's hold on rawhide trade and ensure fair prices to the traders.
Giving further details, he said, "The government always sets the price of rawhide. During the previous Eid-ul-Adha, a group of businessmen agreed to a government-set price for rawhide. The largest collection occurs during Eid, and the rawhide must be bought within 2-3 days.
"These businessmen did not adhere to the set price of rawhide, despite having agreed to do so. During the last Eid-ul-Adha, some businessmen bought rawhide for Tk300-250, instead of the set price of Tk1000-800. Some even paid less for it."
Adding that the government has made a decision, Tipu Munshi said, "I discussed this matter with the prime minister. We are going to buy the rawhide directly from traders at the district level from next year.
"The Trading Corporation of Bangladesh will ensure no one gets cheated over rawhide prices."
During the last Eid-ul-Adha, the government had set the price of under-processed cow rawhide (per 20-35 square feet) to Tk1750-900 for tannery owners.
However, seasonal rawhide traders were hard to find during that Eid. In some places, traders offered Tk500-300 for a rawhide. The prices were much lower outside Dhaka.
Many had buried rawhides instead of selling them because of the extremely low prices.