The prices of onion seeds have multiplied in the local market, compared to last year, while consumers have been suffering due to the exorbitant price of the essential commodity following a ban by India on the export of the item.
One kilogram of imported hybrid onion seeds is selling at Tk 12,000 while locally-grown seeds of similar quantity are selling at Tk 6,000 a kg in the city’s seed hub at Siqddiqe Bazar.
Bangladesh Seed Association general secretary Fazlur Rahman Malik on Sunday told New Age that a handful of importers were receiving windfall by marketing hybrid onion seeds from the USA.
The demand for seeds is now high among the farmers with the beginning of the onion-planting season, he said.
The price of imported hybrid onion seeds was less than Tk 3,000 a kg last year with locally-grown onion seeds selling at around Tk 2,000 a kg, according to seed traders.
Bangladesh Agriculture Development Corporation under the ministry of agriculture will, however, sell each kg of local onion seeds at Tk 3,500 this season, but it can supply only 3,638 tonnes of seeds — which is only 2 per cent of the total demand for 1,81,900 tonnes.
BADC Vegetable Seed Division’s joint director Mustafa Salam said that about 70 per cent of the demand for onion seeds was met by growers from their own sources.
The rest is met through import of mainly hybrid seeds with almost double the yield the local variety produces.
The commerce ministry, responsible for monitoring the prices of daily essential commodities, including onion, has been facing criticisms because of the volatile prices of onion since August.
The price of inion shot up three-fold to over Tk 100 per kg on the local market after India slapped a ban on onion export then.
The commerce ministry has already made an overall assessment of the country’s onion production against the demand, seed management, requirement of fertilizers and other inputs as well as the marketing system of the item.
According to the ministry’s secretary Md Jafar Uddin, lack of quality onion seeds and falling price of the crop in the peak harvesting season because of import from India were two major reasons why farmers showed low interest in onion cultivation.
Jafar said that progarmmes were likely to be taken to assist farmers in achieving onion self-sufficiency in the country over the next two to three years.
According to the Department of Agricultural Extension, Bangladesh in the last season produced around 25 lakh tonnes of onion against the annual demand for 30 lakh tonnes.
DAE officials said that high prices of seeds would not make famers shy of growing onion in the current season.
The onion cultivation season is divided into two periods.
Bulb-based onion is grown in the October–December period while the November–February period is suitable for seed-based onion cultivation.
DAE Field Service Wing director Md Asadullah said that a greater number of farmers than the last year’s had already sowed bulb-based onion to reap a good profit.
The DAE has targeted to bring about 70,000 hectares of land under bulb-based onion production and 2.49 lakh hectares under seed-based cultivation this season to grow 30 lakh tonnes of onion.
Pabna was the country’s main onion-growing district last year with producing 25 per cent of the national output, followed by Faridpur with 15 per cent of the output.
The immediate past Pabna DEA deputy director, Md. Azahar Ali, said that more farmers would be
encouraged to grow onion despite high price of seeds for the promise of good profit.
He viewed that if onion price could be kept around Tk 50 a kg throughout the year more farmers would be interested to grow the crop.
He calculated that one kg of hybrid seed was enough to grow four tonnes of onion, the current wholesale market price of which is at least Tk 3,00,000.
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