Sunday, August 18, 2013

'Our onion sells cheap in Bangla'

MALDA: Even as the sizzling price of onion that touched Rs 80 in districts across Bengal is scalding average consumers, Bangladesh is being spared the heat despite importing the commodity from India. Not only is 1,500 tonnes of onion being exported daily to Bangladesh via Bengal, it is retailing at Rs 50 a kilo in the neighbouring country, nearly 40% lower than the price it is commanding in markets across Bengal.

According to traders, had the huge quantity of export onion been diverted to the domestic market, it would have arrested the price in the state and brought relief to citizens. "In the past, whenever onion prices zoomed, curbs were placed on export to prevent this situation. But with the government failing to act this time, price of onion continues to zoom in the domestic market," said Samir Ghosh of Federation of the Bengal Exporters' Association.

With the government failing to impose restrictions on exports, truck loads of onion continue to roll into Bangladesh from India through five export centers in the state - Petrapol and Gojadanga in North 24-Parganas, Hijli in South Dinajpur, Changrabandha in Cooch Behar and Mahadipur in Malda. The vegetable is now among the most prized export to Bangladesh that also imports fruits, pulses, cement and stone chips.

Though the recent political unrest in Bangladesh did disturb the supply chain in spurts, demand for onion never declined. Being a non-perishable commodity, the consignments always found their way to the market. Around 150-200 tonnes of onion are exported daily through Mahadipur alone.

Hundreds of trucks carrying onions from Bihar, Andhra Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh find their way into the markets at Rs 50 a kg.

Mahendra Jadav of Bihar, who was on way to Bangladesh with a truck laden with onions, said more than 10 lorries, each carrying 15-18 tonnes of onion, had queued up at the border. There were also trucks from Andhra Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh, all carrying onions that would find their way into markets at Rs 50 a kilo.

Exporters' Coordination Committee joint secretary Uzzwal Saha said the skewed pricing of onion in the domestic and export market was a result of the pricing fixed by National Agricultural Co-operative Marketing Federation (Nafed).

"The agreement on export price and quantity was fixed long ago. The contract has to be honoured even if price shoots up in the domestic market. As a result, Bangladesh is getting onions at a cheaper price. We are facing losses and have asked Nafed to revise the export price. Unless that is done, we will suffer," he said.