POST TIME: 20 November, 2019 12:24:24 AM / LAST MODIFIED: 20 November, 2019 12:06:29 PM
First shipment of onion from Egypt arrives tonight

First shipment of onion from Egypt arrives tonight

The first consignment of Egyptian onions will arrive at the Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport in Dhaka tonight by airfreight to ease the pressure on the market, commerce minister Tipu Munshi said yesterday. The airfreight containing onions was scheduled to reach Dhaka airport by Tuesday night, but the flight was delayed due to a technical fault.

The consignment will now reach the capital on Wednesday night, Munshi said during a press conference held at the commerce ministry. From tomorrow, the minister said, a cargo plane loaded with onions will arrive in the country every day. He also said that the government would offer subsidies on onion imports by airfreight and sell those at lower prices through the state-run Trading Corporation of Bangladesh (TCB).

The minister claimed that the prices of onions had already declined to Tk. 120–140 per kg and would decline further within two to three days. He noted that the highest price was currently Tk. 170 per kg at Pabna. He said the government had begun importing onions by air cargo to immediately ease pressure on the market as it takes 15 to 20 days when importing via cargo ships. It takes only seven days to transport the kitchen staple by air cargo.

“We will import onions via chartered air cargo and regular passenger flights. While initially we are importing onions from Egypt, we are also looking at other alternative sources including Turkey,” he noted.

The commerce minister blamed the Indian government’s sudden ban on onion exports for the shortfall in Bangladesh markets, as the country depends on imports from India, especially during the lean season.

Munshi claimed that the Indian trade ministry had provided assurance of withdrawing the ban after October 24, but that did not happen. Rather, it delayed the decision to import onions from alternative sources, he said.

Onion prices increased several-fold following the export ban imposed by the Indian government. The prices even reached Tk. 300 per kg, breaking all previous records.

On November 15, onions sold for Tk. 240–260 per kg in the capital and the prices kept rising by the hour.

The same day, the government decided to import onions from alternative countries including Egypt through a private company in order to stabilise the situation.

Replying to a question, the minister said that a section of unscrupulous businessmen took advantage of the time required to source onions from different countries.

The minister revealed that about 50,000 tonnes of onions would be carried by air cargo and regular passenger flights.

Also, 12,000 to 15,000 tonnes of onions are on their way via cargo ship and are expected to reach Chattogram port within two to three days. Munshi said that the country has a shortfall of six lakh to nine lakh tonnes of onions each year. He also said that one lakh tonnes of onions are imported each month during the last three months until new domestic onions hit the market.

Following India’s sudden ban on onion exports, the minister said, the government was unable to meet the local demand.

He assured that the government would take measures to produce sufficient quantities of onions from next year by providing incentives to farmers.

Sources said that the TCB was importing onions from Turkey via cargo planes, while S Alam Group from Egypt and other companies were importing onions from Afghanistan and the United Arab Emirates. Commerce secretary Dr Mohammed Jafar Uddin, who was present at the press conference, said that the commerce ministry had undertaken a project to adopt scientific measures aimed at preserving onion supplies over the years.