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Onion prices rise by more than 50% in Bangladesh as India bans exports

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Onion prices in Bangladesh rose by more than 50% on Tuesday, following an export ban by India’s largest supplier after its crops were damaged and harvests were delayed by heavy rain, industry officials told Reuters.

The surprise measure, which went into effect immediately on Monday, could help lower prices in India, but raise prices in Asian nations like Malaysia, Nepal and Sri Lanka, except Bangladesh, as they rely on Indian shipments.

“What are we going to eat now?” asked clothing worker Dhaka Munna Khan, who was fired in March after the coronavirus outbreak shut down many businesses, hitting revenue for many as it boosted commodity prices.

Read | The government bans the export of all types of onions with immediate effect

“Prices of all items went up when we had no revenue.”

Retail prices of root vegetables, a staple of subcontinent cuisine, rose in Dhaka to 90 heels per 100 heels ($ 1.06 to $ 1.18) per kg on Tuesday, from 60 heels on Monday and 30 heels in beginning of the month.

“A lot of trucks are standing on the Indian side with onions,” said trader Saiful Islam. “Now we are wondering what will happen to those supplies.”

India is the largest supplier of onions in neighboring Bangladesh, which buys an annual average of more than 350,000 tonnes.

Onion prices in Bangladesh had risen to a record 250 heels in 2019 after a similar Indian ban forced the government to fly onions.

Now, Bangladesh is turning to other countries for supplies, said trade secretary Mohammad Jafar Uddin.

“Our goal is to import onions in the shortest possible time,” he added. “The government is importing 100,000 tonnes of onions from Turkey and other countries.”

Dhaka sparked a rush from many poor people this week when it offered onions at a subsidized rate of 30 heels per pound, though some were left empty-handed on Tuesday when supplies ran out.

In India, prices have tripled in a month to 30 rupees per kg while onion crops sown in the summer in the southern states of Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh were damaged by excessive rainfall, traders said.

The major onion-producing states in India have received 41% more rainfall than normal since the start of the monsoon season on June 1st.

“Supplies of new products have been delayed by almost a month,” said Ajit Shah, president of the Mumbai-based Onion Exporters Association.

“Prices can stay stable in the short term.”

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