Onion, gram get costlier

Traders have increased the prices of gram and onion, cashing in on a rising demand ahead of Ramadan, though a government estimate shows stocks of the two items are adequate.

In the last one month, the prices of onion rose by 23 percent to Tk 24-35 from Tk 20-28 a kg.

Onion prices increased, on average, by Tk 3.5 a kg over the past one week, according to the Trading Corporation of Bangladesh.

The prices of gram shot up by 22 percent to Tk 80-85 from Tk 65-70 a kg a month ago.

In the last one week, gram prices rose, on average, by Tk 2.5 a kg.

Reduced supplies by stockists and importers, and the damage done to onions by the recent downpours are blamed for the price spiral of onion and gram. The demand for the two items soars during the fasting days, beginning in the third week this month.

Shafi Mahmud, president of Bangladesh pulses traders association, said the prices of gram have increased, on average, by Tk 3 per kg on the wholesale market over the last one month.

"The rise is reasonable. The prices of gram go up by such an amount ahead of Ramadan every year," he said.

"It [Ramadan] is a peak season for gram. After Ramadan, the demand will fall significantly."

Gram imports stood at 58,130 tonnes in the April-June period of the just concluded fiscal year, up from 39,081 tonnes in the same period a year ago, according to Chittagong customs data.

The latest imports reflect a surplus compared to the demand for gram estimated at 50,000 tonnes during the month of Ramadan, according to Bangladesh Tariff Commission, which monitors the essentials prices for the government.

The current stock of onion should meet the increased demand during Ramadan, said Narayan Chandra Saha, an importer-wholesaler at the city's Shyambazar wholesale market.

"Retailers are mainly responsible for the hike in the prices of onion. Check the money receipts of the retailers. They are spoiling the market," said Saha, adding that the onion prices came down slightly on the wholesale market yesterday.

The tariff commission's estimates show that the annual demand for onion is 20 lakh tonnes. Consumption rises to 2.20 lakh tonnes in Ramadan from 1.62 lakh tonnes in the usual months.

In the immediate past fiscal year, local production of onion stood at 16.20 lakh tonnes, harvested in March-April.

And till May, 3.5 lakh tonnes of onion were imported with 55,616 tonnes being in the pipeline, according to the tariff commission.

Aminul Islam, an onion wholesaler at Karwan Bazar, said the supply of locally produced onion has been low.

Ratan Saha, another wholesaler at Shyambazar, said the prices of onion usually rise during monsoon when the demand for this cooking ingredient is met through stocks held by farmers and traders.

He claimed the prices are now stable on the wholesale market. But they may go up in the next couple of months due to a reduced output in India, he said, citing Bangladesh's dependence on the neighbouring country for onion.

News Source: 
The Daily Star