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Govt sits with traders today as onion prices keep spiralling

Talha Bin Habib | October 31, 2017 00:00:00

The ministry of commerce (MoC) sits with onion importers and traders today (Tuesday) aiming to contain its soaring prices, officials said.

"We will hold a meeting with onion importers and traders tomorrow (Tuesday) to discuss ways of containing the prices of onion," additional secretary of the ministry Munshi Shafiul Haque told the FE.

Officials from Bangladesh Tariff Commission (BTC), Directorate of National Consumer Rights Protection (DNCRP), food and agriculture ministries, Bangladesh Bank and National Board of Revenue (NBR) are expected to attend the meeting, among other agencies.

The prices of onion surged by 73.33 per cent in the last one month while by 170.83 per cent in the last one year, according to Trading Corporation of Bangladesh (TCB).

Depending on its quality, onion was selling between Tk 75 and Tk 85 per kilogram on Monday at the retail level in the city's kitchen markets.

Onion was sold between Tk 35 and Tk 40 per kg one month ago, compared with Tk 20-Tk 28 a kg a year ago.

The prices of onion had started going up just before Eid-ul-Azha this year.

A commerce ministry official said the country is importing onion from different countries, mainly from India.

The government has provided facilities to the traders including duty waiver, easy access to loan and opening of letters of credit (LCs) for smooth import of onion, he added.

But the prices are yet to come down to a tolerable level, he said.

Newly harvested onion will arrive in the markets after one and a half months later.

Onion traders said there was a sufficient stock of onion in the country. They apprehended that a syndicate might be involved with onion price manipulation.

They also suggested that the government should bring unscrupulous traders to book who were behind the onion price hike.

The country requires 2.2 million tonnes of onion annually against a total local production of 1.9-2.0 million tonnes, according to the ministry of commerce.

But the traders differ on the data, saying that the country produces only 60 per cent onion against the total annual demand. The rest of the amount is being fulfilled through imports.

There was no reason for a hike in onion prices, they said, adding that a market syndicate is believed to be responsible for the recent onion price hike.

The commerce ministry official said the ministry will intensify its ongoing market monitoring drive against hoarders and dishonest traders who are making hefty profits by selling onion at prices considered prohibitive.

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