Due to higher prices of Indian onions on the market and low demand among consumers, Indian onions are not being sold much, which has left importers and traders in trouble with stocks of unsold imported onions.
After India abruptly stopped onion exports on 14 September last year, during the pandemic, the imports restarted again on 2 January through the Bhomra Land Port in Satkhira.
Akhtaruzzaman Akhter, an onion warehouse owner and proprietor of Shakib Enterprise in Sultanpur Baro Bazar in Satkhira city, said Indian onions are not being sold and he incurred losses after importing Indian onions.
"I bought Indian onions for Tk39 per kilogramme and sold them for Tk35 per kilogramme. Yet people are not buying them. I am in trouble with 200 sacks of Indian onions at the warehouse," he said.
At present, local onions are being sold for Tk27-28 per kilogramme at wholesale markets and Tk30 at retail markets of Satkhira. Additionally, in Meherpur district, the wholesale price of local onions is Tk20-22 and retail price is Tk25. Dutch onions are being sold for Tk19-20 at wholesale markets and Tk20-21 at retail markets – whereas the price of Indian onions is Tk36-37 and Tk40 at wholesale and retail markets respectively, he added.
Akbar Ali, a revenue officer at the Bhomra Assistant Commissioner's Office, said 2,041.8 tonnes of onions were imported from India through Bhomra Port between 2-6 January. No duty was charged on these onions as the Bangladesh government introduced duty-free import of onions after the Indian government announced a halt to onion exports.
Md Ratan, the proprietor of Biplob Transport and a trader at Bhomra Port, said he has so far imported five trucks of Indian onions and he is facing losses as there is little demand for it among buyers.
"The price of Indian onions is Tk8-10 more per kilogramme than domestic ones. As a result, buyers are more inclined toward [buying] local onions," he added.
GM Amir Hamza, customs and office affairs secretary of the Bhomra C&F Agents Association, said imports have declined as traders are facing losses due to a lack of demand for Indian onions.
Currently, 10-12 trucks of onions are imported per day whereas 12 trucks entered on 2 January and 30 trucks on 3 January. Before India stopped exports in September, 70-80 trucks used to enter the country, on average, per day.
Satkhira District Agricultural Marketing Officer Saleh Mohammad Abdullah said importers opened Letters of Credit for thousands of tonnes of onions in the hope of making a profit when the price of onions was high. Now those importers are in great danger.
According to the Satkhira District Agriculture Extension Department, onions were planted on 620 hectares of land in the district this season – which was 555 hectares last year. The district produced 6,000 tonnes of onions this season against the demand of 20,000-22,000 tonnes.
Satkhira Agriculture Extension Department Deputy Director Nurul Islam said, "Onions are coming from India while the vegetable production season is going on in the country. As a result, our farmers are suffering. Farmers could have benefited had onion imports started during the off-season."