Price fall frustrates onion growers

Government urged to restrict imports

Md Owasim Uddin Bhuyan | Published: 00:56, May 22,2020


The decreasing prices of onion are frustrating growers in Bangladesh as they are forced to sell their crop at prices Tk 30 lower a kilogram in a gap of only one month, said onion growers.

The import of onion, mostly from India, during the harvest period in March–April caused the fall in market prices of onion in the country, they said, expressing the fear that they would incur losses if prices go down further.

Farmers in Rangpur region said that they had sold the local variety of onion at Tk 80 to Tk 90 per kg early April but in May the price went down to Tk 50, reported the New Age correspondent in Lalmonirhat.

Onion farmer Ebad Ali of Kamlabari village under Aditmari upazila in Lalmonirhat said that he cultivated onion in two bighas of land and he counted a total loss of Tk 50, 000 due to the price fall in one month.

Another farmer Akmal Hossen of the same village said that he had to sell onion grown at one bigha of land and incurred a loss of Tk 20,000 due to the fall in prices.

In January–February, the supply crisis had pushed up onion prices as each kg of the item sold at Tk 150–200 as the export of Indian onion to Bangladesh was stopped.

Department of Agriculture Extension deputy director in Meherpur Kamrul Haque Miah told New Age that farmers in the district cultivated onion on some 2,500 hectares of land and produced over 60,000 tonnes of the crop in the current season.

Due to a favourable weather, farmers were able to have better production and also benefitted from growing onion this year, he said.

Meherpur Sadar upazila’s onion grower Zakaria Hossain told New Age that he cultivated three varieties — Sukhsagor, Taherpur and Lalteer  — in the current season, which gave good yields.

The farmer urged the government to ensure that the growers got good prices. He also urged the government not to allow import of onion during the harvest of the crop.

During 2017–18, the onion growers incurred heavy losses as they were forced to sell the crop at Tk 7-8 per kg. As a result, they drastically cut the cultivation of the crop in 2018–19.

According to the DAE field service wing, farmers have crossed the target of onion cultivation and production this year as they have harvested some 25.60 lakh tonnes of onion from 2.38 lakh hectares of land.

The government had targeted 23.80 lakh tonnes of onion production from 2.11 lakh hectares of land in 2019–20.

As 30 to 35 per cent of the onion grown gets damaged at the farmer level during the harvest and preservation processes, so Bangladesh has to import 10–11 lakh tonnes annually to meet the local demand.

The agriculture ministry provided incentives in seeds, fertilisers and cash to some 7,700 farmers to promote onion cultivation, said officials.

DAE officials said that Bangladesh needed to annually import more than 10 lakh tonnes of onion to meet the local demand though the country had a bumper production of onion this year.

Meherpur, Faridpur, Pabna, Rajshahi and Lalmonirhat districts of Bangladesh are well-known for onion cultivation.

DAE deputy director in Faridpur Kartik Chandra Chakraborty said that over five lakh tonnes of onion were produced in the district and farmers were selling the crop at Tk 35 to Tk 40 per kg.

Pabna DAE deputy director Azhar Ali said that about 6.45 lakh tonnes of onion were produced in the district in the current season and the farmers were getting good prices, more than double their production cost.

Agricultural expert and Sher-e-Bangla Agriculture University’s agronomy professor Abdullahil Baque said that the government should enable the country’s Spice Research Institute to ensure the smooth supply of quality onion seeds of various varieties to the farmers so that they could grow onion in both summer and winter seasons in Bangladesh.

‘With the local production of onion, the country can be self-sufficient,’ he said, adding that the government should ensure better prices for the onion growers and also strengthen the preservation system to stop import of onion.

Bangladesh imports onion mostly from India, China, Turkey and Myanmar, said officials.

Agriculture minister Mohammad Abdur Razzaque has recently said that the government will reconsider the import of onion to protect the local farmers’ interest.

On request of the commerce ministry, the government occasionally allowed the import of onion, the minister said.

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