The Trading Corporation of Bangladesh (TCB) will import an additional 1,50,000 metric tonnes of onions with the help of five industrial groups in phases in a bid to keep the supply and price of the kitchen staple stable during the forthcoming Ramadan.
Shipments of these onions – to be sold in the open market at a subsidized rate of Tk30 a kg – have already started arriving in the country.
The TCB says the price of the kitchen staple will not go up in the coming Ramadan due to the gradual supply of the 1,50,000 tonnes of the commodity in the market till April next.
At present, 18,609 metric tonnes of onions imported by 20 importers are waiting to be unloaded at Chattogram port, according to sources at the port. They added that onion consignments are being unloaded at the port every day.
Meanwhile, onion prices are still high in the retail market, even though prices have witnessed a sharp fall in the wholesale market.
After India stopped onion export, traders have been importing onions from several other countries. Onion shipments from those countries started arriving at Chattogram port on 29 September.
Referring to the TCB's move to import 1,50,000 tonnes of onions ahead of next Ramadan, Jamal Uddin Ahmed, head of the Chattogram regional office of the Trading Corporation of Bangladesh (TCB), told The Business Standard that consignments of onions are arriving in the country through Chattogram sea port every day.
The five industrial groups that are cooperating with the TCB in importing the onions are S Alam Group, TK Group, Meghna Group, BSM Group and City Group.
Some 1,040 metric tonnes of onions imported by S Alam Group for the TCB were unloaded on Friday, he said, adding that those onions have been sent to 12 offices of the trading corporation.
Besides, another 560 metric tonnes of onions imported for the TCB by Meghna Group, City Group and BSM Group will be unloaded today (Sunday), he continued.
He further said the TCB also is importing onions alongside the five industrial groups.
"On 2 November, 728 metric tonnes of the bulb imported by the TCB from Turkey reached Chittagong port. More onions imported by the corporation are on their way to the port."
S Alam Group will import 50,000 metric tonnes of the 150,000 metric tonnes of onions to be imported for the TCB. In the meantime, shipments of onions imported by the business group from Turkey, Netherlands and Pakistan have started arriving at Chattogram port.
A consignment of 2,054 metric tonnes from Turkey is in the process of customs clearance at Chattogram Customs House.
Mithun Kundu, assistant revenue officer at the customs office, told The Business Standard that QM Consortium Limited, the clearing and forwarding (C&F) agent of S Alam Group's concern Sonali Traders, submitted a bill of entry to get customs clearance for 2,054 metric tonnes of onions imported from Turkey.
According to customs house, the price of the 2,054 metric tonnes of onions imported by Sonali Traders is Tk40.47 a kg.
Md Akhtar Hasan, general manager (commercial) of S Alam Group, said his company is importing onions for the TCB to meet the shortage in the local market and that it is not doing this to make profits. These onions are being handed over to the TCB at the import price, he added.
Wholesale price lower than import price
Meanwhile, the price of onions tumbled below the import price, after the imported onions reached the wholesale market.
When the first shipment from Myanmar arrived by sea on 29 September, the price of Myanmar's onions was Tk70 per kg in Khatunganj. At present, they sell at Tk38-45 a kg.
Not only onions imported from Myanmar, but those imported from other countries, including China, Egypt, Pakistan and Iran, are also being sold in the wholesale market at Tk15-20 less than their import prices.
Traders said supply has exceeded demand in the market, causing the fall in prices.
Kamrul Islam, owner of Kael Store, an onion importer, said, "Onions imported from Myanmar by sea cost an average of $570 per tonne, or more than Tk48 per kg (1 dollar is equivalent to Tk84.61). But onions are being sold at Tk30-35 per kg in the wholesale market. This time, traders are facing huge financial losses by importing onions."
Meanwhile, many importers are not unloading their consignments of onions at Chattogram port due to the price fall in the wholesale market. As a result, the quantity of onions is increasing at the port yard every day.
According to sources at Chattogram port, 1,809 metric tonnes of onions are waiting to be unloaded at the port yard as of 1.30 pm on Saturday.
The Chattogram Port Authority sent a letter to the importers on 9 November requesting them to receive the onion consignments.
Ahsan Khaled, president of Chaktai Warehouse Owners and General Merchants Association, said the price of onions in the wholesale market is falling every day.
At present, Chinese onions are selling at Tk30 a kg, while those imported from Turkey are being sold at Tk30-35 per kg, those from Egypt at Tk30-33, Pakistan Tk38-42, Iran at Tk27 and onions imported from New Zealand are being sold at Tk40 a kg, he added.
Mohammad Idris, general secretary of the Hamid Ullah Mia Market Traders Welfare Association in Khatunganj, said many seasonal traders have started importing onions, in addition to those by real traders in the sector, since India imposed a ban on exporting the kitchen staple.
As a result, the volume of import has exceeded market demand, causing onion importers to face huge financial losses.
On a visit to the Kazir Deuri Kitchen Market in the port city on Saturday noon, TBS found that Chinese onions were being sold at Tk55 a kg, Turkish onions at Tk65 and Pakistani onions were being sold at Tk55 a kg.