Onion exports to Bangladesh decline

Kolkata, Aug 21: Onion export to Bangladesh has been reduced to a trickle following the government’s decision to raise the minimum export price (MEP) to $650 per tonne.

Exporters, however, are not complaining, as they think the step is justified in view of the rising domestic demand and recall how the neighbouring country banned export of hilsa fish to India citing the same reason.

The commerce ministry had raised the MEP sharply from $450 per tonne last week to reduce shipment and control the escalating prices of the tuber.

“There is a crisis of onion in my country. How can there be exports when people of India are unable to have onions due to exorbitant prices? The government has done the right thing,” Bharat Bangladesh Chamber of Commerce member Pankaj Roy told IANS.

“In 2007, Bangladesh had banned export of small hilsa (weighing between 500 gm and one kg) below $6. The MEP was $8 for the fish weighing between 1 kg and 1.5 kg and $12 for hilsa weighing over 1.5 kg,” Roy said.

“Then in 2013, Bangladesh banned hilsa export to India citing rise in domestic demand. I don’t know if the decision to deny India of its favourite fish was linked to problems over Teesta water treaty,” he added.

He said onion exports to Bangladesh have drastically gone down during the last one month.

“Only two-four trucks have gone to Bangladesh over the past week. Exporters are selling the onion bulb in the domestic market. There is lot of public resentment and anger over the high prices. Now if we try to send onions abroad, we will be in trouble,” said Roy, also land sub-committee member of Calcutta Customs House Agents Association.

Debasish Saha, who heads one of the biggest onion exporters Krishna Traders, said exports were no more feasible at the present MEP fixed by the government.

“Earlier, we used to export 1,000-1,500 tonnes of onions to Bangladesh daily. I don’t have the current figures now, but my own exports are only one-tenth of what they were earlier,” Saha told IANS.

“I hear now Bangladesh is turning to Myanmar, Pakistan and China to make up for the supply shortage,” he added.

Saha said the government banning the export of onion “happens almost every year when the prices cross Rs.30 (per kg). But this time, due to the serious crisis of the dollar, they have not banned exports totally, but fixed the floor price”.

Onion prices have gone up to Rs.60-70 in West Bengal. In national capital New Delhi, it had soared to Rs.80.