Bangladesh flies in onion supplies as price hits record high

Updated November 18, 2019

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Bangladesh is urgently importing onions by air as the price of the essential ingredient in local dishes soared to record highs, an official said on Sunday, with even the prime minister chopping the bulb from her menu. — AFP/File
Bangladesh is urgently importing onions by air as the price of the essential ingredient in local dishes soared to record highs, an official said on Sunday, with even the prime minister chopping the bulb from her menu. — AFP/File

DHAKA: Bangladesh is urgently importing onions by air as the price of the essential ingredient in local dishes soared to record highs, an official said on Sunday, with even the prime minister chopping the bulb from her menu.

The price of onions — a sensitive subject in South Asia where shortages can trigger widespread discontent with political ramifications — has climbed to eye-watering levels in Bangladesh since neighbouring India banned exports in late September after heavy monsoon rains reduced the crop.

One kilogramme of the staple vegetable usually costs 30 taka (36 US cents) but has soared to up to 260 taka after the ban was imposed.

Hasina’s deputy press secretary Hasan Jahid Tusher said onions were being imported by air freight, and that “Prime Minister (Sheikh Hasina) said she has stopped using onion in dishes”.

None of the dishes at the PM’s residence in Dhaka on Saturday contained onions, he added.

Local media reported several onion consignments arrived at a major port in Chittagong city on Sunday after Dhaka — facing a public outcry — imported the bulb from Myanmar, Turkey, China and Egypt.

The state-run Trading Corporation of Bangladesh (TCB) is also selling onions at a discounted 45 taka per kilogramme in the capital Dhaka. At the city’s busy Farmgate neighbourhood, hundreds of people queued for hours —some getting into scuffles — to buy the subsidised vegetable.

Published in Dawn, November 18th, 2019