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Importers looking for alternative markets of onions, prices high

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Following extension of restrictions on the export of onions by India, the prices of onion have started rising in the local market.

As the big source of onion import has been stopped, onions have to be imported from alternative countries.

But prices have started increasing in the alternative markets too due to the restrictions enforced by India.

India has extended restrictions on the export of onions for three months in a bid to check prices and increase supply at local markets.

The department of commerce in India on Thursday said restrictions on the export of onions will remain effective till 31 March.

However, early harvest of onions (murikata) in the south-western region of the country has already started. But these onions cannot be stored and the production is not high.

An official at the field services wing of the agricultural extension department said early marketing of onions has started. As the farmers are getting good prices. Newly-produced onions will arrive in the market soon. The supply will increase.

Onions have to be imported to meet the demand despite early marketing of new arrivals. Myanmar is the nearest alternative country next to India. Onions can be imported and marketed within a week from the country. Besides, it takes 13 to 30 days on sea routes to import onions from Pakistan, Egypt, China and Netherlands.

Myanmar is the best alternative to Bangladesh. Importers think this facility will not be available now as clashes are going on between armed ethnic groups and security forces in Rakhine. Onions cannot be imported through the land port since 14 November due to clashes. Import in limited scale began on 5 December. However, onions cannot be imported till the date.

Speaking to Prothom Alo, proprietor of Importer Faruk Traders in Teknaf, Omar Faruk, said Myanmar has onions for export. But the Myanmar government is not giving permission to export onions due to unrest in sequel to armed ethnic groups.

Turkey, Pakistan, China, Egypt and the Netherlands are alternative sources for import of onions. Suppliers from these countries have to be found out and permission has to be taken from the agricultural department.

The process to open Letter of Credit (LC) has to be started. A crisis over opening LC persists due to the dollar crisis.

After India fixed USD 800 per tonne on 29 October, import of onion started. Onions were being imported in limited scale from China and Pakistan.

Deputy director at plant quarantine station wing of Chattogram port, Mohammad Shah Alam, speaking to Prothom Alo, said 830 tonnes of onions have been imported from China and Pakistan since 26 November.

Many importers are looking for alternative markets. Faruq Ahmed, a proprietor of Faruq Trade International, is an importer in Khatunganj.

He said ahead of restrictions by India, it would cost USD 280 per tonne to import onions from China. Now the cost rises to USD 380. It cannot be said how much the price will go up in the alternative markets.

India suspended export of onions four years ago. Four big importers imported onions from alternative countries to tackle the situation. These are Meghna Group of Industries, BSM, S Alam and City Group.

BSM Group chairman Abul Bashar Chowdhury said it would be beneficial to import onions from Myanmar. Onions could be imported within a short time. There is also scope to import onions from China, Pakistan, Egypt and Turkey. Steps have to be taken to open LC for importing onions. [Prothom Alo]




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