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Crackdown on price gouging

Brisk mkt monitoring curbs onion price

Published : 10 Dec 2023 01:49 AM | Updated : 11 Dec 2023 07:07 PM

The government has initiated immediate action check prices of essential commodities after the onion market became volatile in the retail market following an overnight price hike and overstocking. 

The price of onion in Bangladesh nearly doubled overnight after India has extended its restriction on onion export till March next year.

The onion was selling at Tk 220 to Tk 240 per kg at retail market in and outside Dhaka on Saturday, which was Tk 120 on Friday. Meanwhile, imported or Indian onions sold at Tk 200 a kg, up from Tk 120-140 on Friday.

Visiting some kitchen markets on Saturday morning, including Banasree, Meradia Haat, Rampura Bazar, Uttar Badda, Modhya Badda and Ulan Bazar, it was found that local onions were being sold at Tk 240 a kg in the capital, while the Indian onions were being sold at Tk 220 per kg.

Abdul Halim, owner of a grocery at Meradia Haat said that the onion prices surged following India’s ban on onion export. 

Apart from the onion price, the prices of garlic, sugar and pulses are also on the rise. Although prices of the items did not double overnight like onion, the prices of these essential commodities also increased within a day. 

The price of garlic has increased by Tk 20 per kg in a day, while the price of all varieties of pulse has increased by Tk 3 to Tk 5 per kg and the price of sugar has increased by Tk 50 per maund.

The overnight rise in onion prices and some other commodities prompted the government action as the government machinery has become active across the country immediately on Friday.  

The government bodies concerned and the field-level administration stepped up measures to check the prices of the food items and increase their supply. In many places in Dhaka and other parts of the country, the government bodies concerned took appropriate legal action against unscrupulous traders responsible for hoarding goods, particularly onion. 

The government, however, issued strict directives to field-level administration to practise austerity against the price hikes and unscrupulous traders.

On Thursday (December 7), a notification was issued by the Indian Ministry of Commerce and Industry over its restriction on onion export. When the news spread in the Bangladesh’s market on Friday (December 8), the traders started selling onion at high rate. 

“Onion was being sold at Tk 120 per kg before the evening at Gachbari Bazar under Kanaighat upazila in Sylhet, but it almost doubled after the evening. Some traders sell the onion at Tk 200, some sell at higher price. Many traders stocked onion to sell at a higher price,” said Jamilur Rahman, a bank official of Gachbari Bazar. 

The local administration immediately took initiative on receiving the information. Faysal Ahmed, assistant commissioner (land) of Kanaighat upazila, visited Gachabari Bazar on Friday evening and told the shopkeepers not to sell onions at high prices. The officer instructed the market committee to implement the order and the market commitee held a meeting on Saturday in order to control the price of onion. 

The assistant commissioner (land) of Kanaighat upazila on Saturday told the Bangladesh Post that the traders must sell onion as per previous rate. Action will be taken against them by conducting mobile court if they fail to follow the order. 

In this way, the government has taken strict measures in the capital and field-level across the country. The government is deploying officials as part of efforts to rein in prices of essential commodities ahead of the upcoming national elections.

The officials of the Directorate of National Consumers’ Right Protection (DNCRP) have been deployed to all kitchen markets in the capital so that the traders sell onions at the proportionate and reasonable rate they purchased earlier.

“We have deployed four teams in Dhaka and they are conducting operations against traders who have unduly increased onion prices. The traders must sell onions in proportion to the rate they purchased earlier,” AHM Shafiquzzaman, director general (additional secretary) of DNCRP told the media on Saturday. 

He informed that the officials of the DNCRP conducted raids at different kitchen markets in the capital city, including Mirpur, Karwan Bazar and Shyambazar, to bring the onion price to a stable condition.

Meanwhile, the DNCRP fined some traders in Chattogram city for selling onion at high prices.

A DNCRP team conducted a drive in Khatunganj and Karnaphuli kitchen markets of the port city and took the action, said a Deputy Director of the DNCRP.

Like Dhaka and other parts of the country, the retail price of imported onions in Chattogram rose from Tk 110 on Friday to Tk 240 on Saturday. A consumer in the port city said that he bought half a kg of Indian onion at Tk 110 per kg from Kazir Dewri CDA Market on Thursday. “Today, I went to the same grocery to do monthly shopping and the retailer demanded Tk 240 a kg for the same onion,” he said on Saturday. 

At the wholesale markets in Khatunganj in Chattogram, the price surged as most traders claimed they did not have any stock.

In Dinajpur and some other northern districts, prices have gone up by Tk 90 to 100 per kg.

Local markets in Dinajpur, especially in Bahadurbazar and Railbazarhat, witnessed a craze of onion buying as consumers are allegedly stocking up on onion fearing further increase in prices. 

In Khulna, the prices of onions have increased by Tk 50–60 per kg. Some people of Khulna said that when the local varieties of onion will come to market in 15 days, the prices of onion will drop.

A large area of onion fields has been devastated by the recent rain in Khulna and this will have an effect on the price.

According to wholesalers, the price suddenly jumped in the wholesale market also for the rain in the last couple of days following the cyclonic storm ‘Michaung’. 

Mohammad Abdul Mazed, general secretary of the Shyambazar Onion Wholesalers Association, said that India’s export ban has had a big impact on the Bangladesh market. There is not enough supply to meet the demand in the local market, while rains in the past few days have also affected the prices.

In May 2022, the Bangladesh government halted onion import from India to support local farmers. India’s 2020 export ban on all onion varieties except cut, sliced, or in powder form was implemented to control rising domestic prices amid flood-related production losses.

The annual production of onion in Bangladesh exceeds 3.5 million tonnes, with a demand of around 2.8 million tonnes. Despite high production, the country relies on import due to significant wastage caused by storage and management complications, amounting to 25% or more of the total onion production.

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