Onion has become dearer suddenly since the last day of September with prices of the kitchen staple showing 22-28pc rise in the past 72 hours ending Sunday afternoon.
Both market observers and consumers blamed traders for the sudden rise in onion price while the traders blamed a surge in import cost for the hike.
Visiting different city markets on Sunday, this correspondent found locally produced onion retailing at Tk 60-70 per kilogram (kg) which was Tk 45-55 a kg only three days back. Prices of the widely-used staple increased by Tk 12-15 a kg at wholesale level during the period.
Market experts said they have been noticing the rising in onion price since the last day of September till Sunday, which is happening at a time when Bangladesh is boasting a bumper production of the key spice this year. The sky-rocketing trend in onion price in the local market started amid a sudden price hike in India due to a series of natural disasters in several onion-growing hubs including Nasik, they noted.
They said this trend reminded them of a similar sky-rocketing price of onion which started from September 29 2019 and continued till December that year which impacted Bangladesh's local market severely. By the end of December that year onion price hit Tk 300 a kg in the local market, they mentioned.
Shyambazar-based trader Narayan Chandra Saha told the FE on Sunday that supply of imported onion has decreased amid a notable rise in price in India for natural disasters in Nasik and other onion-producing hubs.
He said import cost soared to Tk 46-48 per kg in recent weeks amid flood and cyclonic storms in many parts of India.
"But the price hike by such a wide margin (in Bangladesh) could hardly be linked to a surge in import cost as there is still an ample supply of local onion in the market this year", he said.
He acknowledged that a section of unscrupulous traders have raised the price in local market cashing in on the price hike in Indian market due to the natural calamity there. Many big traders and hoarders have been utilising the situation unethically with an apparent motive to use the opportunity to make a windfall profit, he added.
Traders at other markets also said that onion prices had shot up by Tk 15-20 a kg in the last few days across the country using import cost hike as an excuse.
Price of the spice is showing a continuous rising trend since Thursday last, Belal Hossain, a grocer at Sankar at West Dhanmondi, said.
He said price of the key kitchen spice increased by Tk 12-15 a kg at the wholesale markets during the period.
"We are buying local hybrid onion at Tk 50-52 and local indigenous variety at 54-58 a kg from Shyambazar and other wholesale markets", he mentioned.
He also said that supply of imported Indian onion was lesser in the market and was selling at Tk 48-50 a kg on the day.
According to the state-owned Trading Corporation of Bangladesh (TCB), onion price witnessed 22-28 per cent hike in just three days from September 1-3.
A Department of Agricultural Extension (DAE) primary data has showed that Bangladesh has produced over 2.6 million tonnes of onion this year which is more than the country's annual demand.
Contacted, secretary of the Consumers Association of Bangladesh (CAB), Humayun Kabir Bhuiyan, said that local onion is dominating the market this year amid a bumper production.
He said the current price hike is a plot by 'a syndication' in the market which artificially raised the price using a surge in import costs as an excuse.
Mr Kabir urged the government to encourage importers to import onion from multiple sources rather than one particular source. He suggested not to depend only on India for the import suggesting to rely on other countries for the same with the view to bringing stability in the volatile onion market.
Bangladesh was squeezing import from India in recent years for New Delhi's sudden ban on export on Sept 20, 2019, without prior notice to its neighbor which made Bangladesh's local onion market volatile in late 2019 and early 2020.
However, Bangladesh was sourcing a significant amount of onion from China, Egypt, Myanmar, Turkey, Pakistan and other countries in the last couple of years during-off seasons which had helped bring equilibrium in the local market during the past several months, said traders.
CAB secretary Kabir said the TCB should restart its market operation to further increase supply of the essential spice at affordable price to the commoners.
He also put high emphasis on regular market monitoring by concerned government agencies to prevent any further price hike.
Meanwhile, price of green chilli also increased notably by Tk 60-80 a kg in last few days as sold at Tk 200-240 a kg across the country on Sunday.
Carrot prices shot up to Tk 150-180 a kg amid a rise in import costs, said traders.