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Last Updated: Friday, 24 October, 2003, 22:57 GMT 23:57 UK
Stink over Bangladesh onion price

Alastair Lawson
BBC correspondent in Dhaka

Price rises could see produce markets quieter than normal
With Ramadan looming this weekend, the Bangladeshi Government is worried about the rising cost of a staple food - the onion.

As demand soars, so have the prices, even though the government has waived import duties on the vegetable.

Nearly all meat and fish dishes contain onions, and they are needed in even larger amounts for the end of day meal during the Muslim festival.

Most onions are imported from India and wholesalers have suddenly increased prices.

They blame the rises on shortages caused by recent monsoon floods in Bangladesh and India, as well as higher transportation costs due to increased fuel prices.

Some also blame the government for failing to control prices and unscrupulous traders who hoard onions to make quick profits.

The Ministry of Commerce has held frequent meetings with wholesalers, retailers and trading agencies but says it can do little to control prices in Bangladesh's free-market economy.

Shopper's lament

Abdul, who sells onions in Dhaka's Gulshan market, says: "People are suffering from the price rises. Onions have more than doubled in price. In fact, all vegetables have suddenly become a lot more expensive. There's an acute shortage of supplies at the moment."

For shoppers like Hameeda, expensive onions make life tough for everyone.

"It will be really hard for us," she says, "because I want to give my family a decent meal at the end of each day's Ramadan fast.

"If I can't afford onions, an essential part of Bangladeshi cuisine, how will I be able to feed them properly?"

But it does not look as if the price of onions will come down in the short term and so Dhaka's markets - normally bustling with life - may well remain a little quieter.

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