Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Friday joked about the shortage of onion in her country after India banned exports last month. The 72-year-old Prime Minister reportedly said that it has become difficult for them to get onions. Hasina said, “I don't know why you stopped onion (exports). So what I did was, I told my cook to not to use onion in food. Prior notice of such decisions would help. Suddenly, you stopped and it became a difficulty for us. In future, if you are taking such a decision, prior information would help.” The Bangladeshi PM was addressing India-Bangladesh Business Forum which was organised by industry chambers including CII and Assocham. Minister of Railways and Commerce Piyush Goyal was also present at the event.
Sheikh Hasina is currently in India on a four-day visit. She is scheduled to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi to engage in bilateral talks on October 5. In the statement made by the Ministry of External Affairs, it said, “Apart from a number of agreements that are to be exchanged between the sides during the visit, the two Prime Ministers will also jointly inaugurate three bilateral projects via video link."
A ban on onion exports by India has caused shortages, soaring prices, and widespread anger in neighbouring Bangladesh, where the pungent bulb is used in almost all aspects of the national cuisine. The price of onions is a sensitive subject in South Asia, where shortages can trigger widespread discontent with political ramifications.
About two-thirds of the demand for onions are grown locally by the farmers, with the rest mostly imported from neighbouring India, where heavy monsoon rains have reduced the crop. One kilogramme of the staple vegetable usually costs 30 takas (36 US cents) but has soared to up to 130 takas after India imposed the export ban over the weekend. Amid a public outcry, Dhaka quickly took steps to import the vegetable from Myanmar, Turkey, China, and Egypt.
The state-run Trading Corporation of Bangladesh (TCB) is also selling onions at a discounted 45 taka per kilogramme in the capital Dhaka. However, in the city of 18 million, only about 9,000 people -- limited to two kilogrammes per person -- are allowed to buy the vegetable at the subsidised rate each day. Heavy monsoon rains in key onion-growing regions have been blamed for the current shortage in India. In an effort to arrest further price rises, New Delhi imposed the export ban and suppliers and distributors are blocked from stocking up. Some reserve onion stocks held by the national government are also being sold in several States at subsidised prices.
(With inputs from PTI)