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OMS onion in Dhaka: Joy for some, disappointment for many

  • Published at 11:20 pm October 1st, 2019
People standing in line to buy daily necessities from OMS points in Dhaka Dhaka Tribune

Consumers outside Dhaka cry for OMS

Private company employee Anisur Rahman rushed to buy onion from an open market sale (OMS) point at Malibagh in the capital during lunch time only to find the truck empty.

The TCB dealer told him that all their 400 kg onion were sold out by 12.30pm.

Onion at the OMS outlets, run by the Trading Corporation of Bangladesh (TCB), was selling at Tk45 per kg. 

The government has taken initiatives to ease the supply scarcity and offer a reduced and affordable rate for the low-income group in the capital.

“I wanted to buy onion at a cheaper rate, but I found the truck empty,” a disappointed Anisur Rahman told Dhaka Tribune.

TCB dealer Jamal Hossain, who was selling onion at the Malibag point, said people stood in queue to buy the cooking ingredient since early in the morning, but many of them returned empty-handed as the day's allocation of 400kg ran out within hours.

Similar situation was found at Shantinagar OMS outlet.

Elias Ali, a day labour, who rushed to Shantinagar to buy onion at lower price, was asked by TCB salesmen to come early the following day.

TCB dealers said the daily allocation of onion was sold out within hours at all the 35 points in the city yesterday. 

TCB spokesperson Humayun Kabir said the TCB began selling 14,000kg of onion per day through 35 points in the capital since Tuesday.

Buyers of onion from OMS outlet at Mohammadpur Townhall kitchen market thanked the government for OMS scheme at a time when onion prices were soaring.

“It is really great. I have saved more than Tk100 through purchasing two kg onion from this TCB truck,” Sohrab Mia, an electrician, said.

Sohrab suggested that the government should allow purchase of at least five kg onion by an individual from the OMS points.

Another buyer Taslima Akter, a housewife at Tajmahal Road, said it took 30 to 40 minutes for her turn to come and she could buy two kg onion from the OMS outlet.

“Standing in queue is bad, but getting onion at Tk45 per kg is a matter of joy,” Taslima, whose husband is a three-wheeler driver, expressed her exhilaration.

The Ministry of Commerce took immediate steps through TCB to initiate OMS on September 17 soon after the Indian government fixed the minimum export price for onion, leading to a spike in onion prices in the local market in Bangladesh.

On Sunday, India banned onion export which has impacted the country’s onion supply and its prices. Eventually, price for per kg of the commodity escalated by up to Tk47 on Monday.

The government, however, acted immediately to initiate OMS programme to curb price manipulation and help fixed income group people to buy onion at lower rate.

The TCB officials said the current OMS programme would continue until the current volatile price situation eased.

The TCB has been selling  onion at different spots in the city including near National Press Club, Dilkusha Bok Chattar, Khamarbari of Farmgate,  Mohammadpur, Mirpur 10, Malibaghbazar, Shantinagarbazar, Kaptanbazar, and Fakirapoolbazar. 

Commenting on the issue, Consumers Association of Bangladesh (CAB) President Golam Rahman welcomed the government's OMS initiative.

"Supply should be adequate and its operation needs to be monitored," he said.

During visits to different OMS outlets in the capital, Dhaka Tribune found people from low, lower-middle, and middle-income groups queuing up for onion.

They expressed dissatisfaction over the inadequate supply and called upon the authorities for immediate steps to bring down the market prices by importing onion from alternative sources other than India, and allocate more onion for OMS programme..

Outside the capital

The government has no onion sale program at reduced rate for people outside the capital similar to open market sale (OMS) scheme in the capital, consumers have alleged.

In the face of the soaring onion prices, the government launched OMS programme on September 17 in the capital.

Bitu Goshami, wholesaler of Barishal Peazpatti onion market, said the prices of local as well as Indian onion doubled in wholesale level in a couple of days. 

In the retail markets of Barisal, per kg local onion was sold at Tk110- 115 yesterday and Indian onion at Tk80-85. 

Tayeb Shikdar, a trader of Boro Bazar of Khulna, said per kg onion sold at Tk80-Tk110 and the rate varied in different shops as many traders sold onion at different rates depending on their stocks. 

Deb Saha, a private service holder in Khulna, said that five days ago, he bought per kg onion at Tk60 per kg but within a week he had to pay double for the same amount.

“It is obvious that some dishonest businesspeople increased the price artificially to gain extra profit which made our life difficult," he said. 

Rokeay Begum, a garment worker in Gazipur, said that due to skyrocketing price of onion people with limited income faced difficulties and it forced them to buy less amount of onion than their regular buys.

“My six-member family used to consume two and a half kgs onion for a week but because of high price, I now consume one kg,” she said.

Mozammel Hossain, a primary school teacher of Joydebpur in Gazipur, complained that the government sold onion at a subsidized rate only in the Dhaka.

“There is no such initiative for the vast majority of people living outside the capital,” he stated.

While contacted, M Humayun Kabir, deputy senior executive officer at TCB, said the government was thinking about the OMS of onion for outside the city.

“But currently we will continue it only in the capital," he stated.

“After meeting the needs of the people in Dhaka, we will carry out activities outside of the city depending on our stock and allocation," he added. 

Our district correspondents contributed to the report

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