Onion shoots to Rs240 per kg amid unbridled exports

Published January 9, 2024
Surging vegetable exports, especially onion and potato, have not only resulted in skyrocketing of local prices but also badly impacted kitchen budgets of middle- and lower-income households which have been enduring unprecedented inflation for over one and a half years.—Fahim Siddiqi/White Star
Surging vegetable exports, especially onion and potato, have not only resulted in skyrocketing of local prices but also badly impacted kitchen budgets of middle- and lower-income households which have been enduring unprecedented inflation for over one and a half years.—Fahim Siddiqi/White Star

KARACHI: As Pakistani exporters continue cashing in on the situation that emerged after the Indian ban on onion exports, local consumers are taking the hit of an improvement in foreign exchange earnings by paying up to Rs240 per kg for the commodity in the domestic markets.

When India imposed a ban on Dec 8, 2023 till March 2024, local rates suddenly crawled up to Rs160-180 from Rs120-140 on intense buying by the exporters and since then the rates have continued to swell on thriving exports. As a result, the already inflation-hit consumers are now paying heavy prices for the most sought-after commodity compared to other vegetables.

Retailers said that exporters are lifting even the limited arrival of Iranian and Kabul onion to tap the huge export demand.

India had banned exports after local prices more than doubled in the last three months owing to a drop in production. The prices are reportedly on a downward trajectory in Indian markets.

As foreign media reports are coming up that India may lift the ban after a drop in prices, Pakistani exporters are trying their best to avail this opportunity till India resumes its onion exports in the world market.

Retailers said massive hikes in prices are forcing many consumers to lift limited quantities as per their requirement as they are trying to manage their purchasing budget due to high rates of other vegetables and soaring utility bills.

Falahi Anjuman Wholesale Vegetable Market Super Highway President Haji Shahjehan said the wholesale rates of medium quality is Rs7,000 per 40kg while high-quality costs over Rs8,000 per 40kg.

He claimed that exporters are procuring high quality due to its size and demand in the Arab countries and Dubai.

When asked that many non-traditional foreign buyers are also purchasing Pakistani onion in the absence of Indian variety, he said there might not be direct exports from local exporters, but other countries’ buyers may be lifting onion from Dubai for onward shipments.

He said the Balochistan crop has almost come to an end while the country is dependent on supplies arriving from different areas of Sindh, which is also keeping pressure on the prices.

As onion enjoys a big share in overall vegetable exports along with potatoes, the data of the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics revealed a jump in total vegetable exports to 64,285 tonnes in November 2023 from 49,842 tonnes in October 2023.

Published in Dawn, January 9th, 2024

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