Onion syndicate bag Tk 3000cr creating artificial crisis

A syndicate has been taking Tk 50 crore per day and seized more than Tk 3,000 crore over the last four months by creating artificial crisis of onion in the country. Conscious Consumers’ Society (CCS) made this statement at a press conference titled, ‘Price anarchy by onion syndicate’ held at National Press Club in the capital on Sunday.

The organization has found the amount of seized money from verifying price chart of Trading Corporation of Bangladesh (TCB), different media reports and information based on own sources. Claiming the skyrocketing price is a planned one by a syndicate, the CCS members urged the government to take immediate steps and arrest the syndicate leaders.

According to the CCS data, the onion price saw a 400 percent hike in four months from July 2 to October 31. CCS members said although the onion price has gone up excessively over the past two weeks, the initial price hike started on July 2, one month before Eid-ul-Azha. CCS Executive Director Palash Mahmud said, “From July 2 to October 31, the onion price fluctuated 24 times. A strong syndicate is pulling the strings behind this price hike.”

They fixed the logical price of per kilogram (Kg) onion as Tk 30 from July to September and fixed Tk 50 for per Kg onion till October 31 as the logical price. He said, “The syndicate took Tk 397 crore and 67 lakh in July, Tk 491 crore and 43 lakh in August, Tk 825 crore and 26 lakh in September and Tk 1,464 crore and 99 lakh in October by deceiving the consumers.”

He also said, “The present price of onion is Tk 120-150. The price of this key cooking ingredient is now beyond the purchasing power of middle and low income group.” He rejected the excuses of short supply and an increase in import cost as claimed by traders for the hike in the onion price, saying the widespread availability of Indian onion in the market now shows that it was stockpiled by traders much earlier and there was no shortage in supply.

According to government data, the demand for onion across the country is 24 lakh tonnes with local one meeting the need of 16 lakh tonnes. “Consumers are being scammed in the name of low supply and high import cost of onion...the average cost of onion imported from Myanmar is Tk 34 per kg and the price of per kg onion can in no way exceed Tk 50,” Palash said.

According to CCS research, consumers lost Tk 3,1793,650,000 over the last four months for the seemingly artificial crisis of onion and the price hike in the country. The organisation put forward a set of proposals to resolve the current crisis in onion market. The suggestions include conducting drives against syndicate responsible for the price hike and fixing the highest possible price for onion for a certain period. Among others, CCS member Shahidul Islam and Jojonto Krishno Joy were present in the press conference.