Following India’s decision to extend export restrictions on onions, the price of onions in Bangladesh nearly doubled overnight. On Saturday morning in the capital, local onions were being sold at Tk220, compared to Tk140 the previous day. Meanwhile, imported or Indian onions rose to Tk200 from Tk120-140 on Friday.
The Indian Ministry of Commerce and Industry’s notification on December 7 extended onion export restrictions until March 31 next year, setting a minimum export price at $800 and imposing a 40% export duty. The rationale behind this move is to enhance domestic availability and regulate prices. The notification outlines three conditions under which onion consignments can still be exported.
Badda grocery shop seller Mizan noted that onion prices surged in the wholesale market after India’s export ban, making onions both expensive and scarce. Due to the high purchasing rates, selling local onions below Tk220 became impractical for many sellers.
Shariful Islam, a vendor at Dilu Road, highlighted the impact on his daily procurement, stating that due to soaring prices, he could only acquire 15 kg of onions instead of the usual 1-2 sacks. Consequently, local onions were retailed at Tk220, and Indian imports at Tk200, compared to approximately Tk140 just a day earlier.
The commerce ministry in Bangladesh had announced price caps for essential commodities on December 7, including potatoes at Tk35-36 per kg, local onions at Tk64-65 per kg, and eggs at Tk12 per piece. Additionally, fixed prices were set for bottled soybean oil at Tk169 per litre, non-bottled soybean at Tk149, and palm oil at Tk124.
The Indian export ban follows a series of measures, including a 40% duty imposed by the Revenue Department of the Indian Finance Ministry on onion exports to Bangladesh in August. The Indian government also set a Minimum Export Price of $800 per tonne, effective from October 29 to December 31.
Bangladesh had previously halted onion imports from India in May 2022 to support local farmers, resulting in increased onion prices. India’s 2020 export ban on most onion varieties was implemented to control rising domestic prices following flood-related production losses.
Despite Bangladesh’s annual onion production exceeding 3.5 million tonnes, the country relies on imports due to significant wastage caused by storage and management challenges, amounting to 25% or more of total onion production.
TCB Approved to Procure 1.10cr Litres of Edible Oil, 10,000 Metric Tons of Lentils
The Cabinet Committee on Government Purchase (CCGP) has given approval for the Trading Corporation of Bangladesh (TCB) to procure 1.10 crore litres of edible oil and 10,000 metric tons of lentils. The TCB will conduct these purchases as part of its open market sale (OMS) program.
In a meeting presided over by Finance Minister Abul Hasan Mahmood Ali on February 29, the CCGP approved two separate proposals presented by the commerce ministry on behalf of TCB.
According to the proposals, the TCB will import 1.10 crore litres of soybean oil through an open tender from City Edible Oil Ltd. The total cost of this procurement is Tk174.66 crore, with each litre priced at Tk165.25.
Additionally, the TCB will acquire 8,000 metric tons of lentils from Nabi Naba Food Limited, costing Tk83.12 crore, with each kilogram priced at Tk103.09.
Rice Varieties and Prices Must Now be Printed on Bags, says Ministry of Food
The Ministry of Food has issued a directive mandating the inclusion of selling prices of rice at mill gates and the specific rice varieties on bags. The move aims to curb potential price hikes and enhance transparency in the rice market. According to the announcement on Wednesday (21 February), rice-producing millers must display essential details such as mill name, district and upazila name, production date, mill gate price, and rice variety on bags before supplying for commercial purposes.
The ministry’s decision follows observations in various rice-producing districts, revealing the sale of rice from the same paddy type under different names and prices. The notice highlights the blame game among millers, wholesalers, and retailers during sudden price fluctuations, causing inconvenience for consumers in obtaining desired rice varieties at fair prices and leading to financial strain.
To enforce these guidelines, the ministry emphasizes that information on rice bags should not be handwritten with ink. Instead, rice-producing mill owners must ensure that all sacks/packets bear printed details as specified. Corporate bodies are also required to adhere to these guidelines, with the option to include maximum retail prices in addition to mill gate prices.
District administrators, upazila executive officers, and food controllers are instructed to confirm compliance during inspections. Any violation of these guidelines may result in necessary actions as per the provisions outlined in the “Production, Storage, Transfer, Transportation, Supply, Distribution and Marketing of Food Products (Prevention of Prejudicial Activity) Act, 2023.”
Govt Initiatives Drive Lentil Cultivation, Targeting High Yields
Around 54,101 tonnes of lentils are expected to be produced from 35,380 hectares of land in the division during the current Rabi season, officials said.
The Department of Agricultural Extension (DAE) has set a production target of 32,411 tonnes of lentils from 20,620 hectares of land in four districts of its Rajshahi Agricultural Zone and 21,690 tonnes from 14,755 hectares of land in four other districts of the Bogura Zone.
DAE’s Additional Director Shamsul Wadud stated that all possible measures were taken to achieve the production target, providing farmers with newly developed high-yielding varieties of lentils. Small and marginalized farmers received seed and fertilizer support for lentil cultivation free of cost under the government’s agriculture incentive program.
Abul Kalam Azad, a farmer in Godagari Upazila, mentioned that he cultivates lentils to avoid irrigation water-related hassles for paddy. He cultivated lentils on six bighas of land this year without incurring extra irrigation costs. Farmers in the region find lentil cultivation appealing due to lower irrigation expenses and have witnessed abundant production in recent years.
Zakir Hossain, another farmer, highlighted that growers are increasingly interested in lentil cultivation due to its lower irrigation cost and consistently high yields in recent years. Sub-Assistant Agriculture Officer Atanu Sarker noted that farmers have achieved better yields in cash crops due to the promotion of high-yielding varieties and modern management practices.
Efforts from government and non-government entities are encouraging farmers to cultivate water-saving crops like lentils in the Barind area to alleviate the growing pressure on underground water resources. Over 1,500 volunteers are engaged in promoting water resource management for less water-consuming crops as part of the Integrated Water Resource Management (IWRM) Project.
Farmers’ interest in lentil cultivation has grown as they have experienced lucrative market prices for the crop in recent years. IWRM Project Coordinator Jahangir Alam Khan explained that farmers in high Barind areas, facing high irrigation costs for paddy farming, find lentil cultivation appealing due to its lower irrigation requirements.
Dr. Jagadish Chandra Barman, Principal Scientific Officer at the Bangladesh Agriculture Research Institute, emphasized the potential for significant lentil output in the Barind region. Cultivating lentils on around 80,000 hectares of fallow land after the harvest of transplanted Aman paddy could substantially contribute to reducing the country’s reliance on lentil imports.
The article concludes by highlighting the bright prospects of increasing lentil acreage, producing larger quantities with lower production costs, and reducing the pressure on lentil imports to meet domestic demand.
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