Bangladesh minister urges India to lift onion export ban


Guwahati: Bangladesh on Tuesday urged India to lift ban on onion export to the neighbouring country at the earliest as prices of the commodity have skyrocketed there due to drop in supply.

Addressing the India-Bangladesh Stakeholders’ Meet here, Bangladesh Commerce Minister Tipu Munshi requested the Indian government to take a humanitarian look into the issue as people are impacted due to high prices of the produce.

“We are short of six lakh tonnes of onion. Out of this, 80 per cent comes from India. After the ban on onion export from India, prices have gone up drastically and people are asking when it will come down,” he added.

India had recently banned exports of onion to increase availability of the commodity in the domestic market and contain spiralling prices.

Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina while addressing India-Bangladesh Business Forum meet in Delhi on October 4 last had expressed difficulties faced by her country post export ban by saying in a lighter vein that she told her cook not to use onion in food.

The Bangladesh commerce minister said most of the neighbouring countries in South Asia depend on India for food security and import essential commodities from here.

“We understand that Indian authority is well aware of this and always analyse this from humanitarian perspective. We are eagerly waiting for the withdrawal of the export ban recently imposed on onion.

“I spoke to Indian Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal on the issue. He said India will try to lift the ban after Maharashtra elections. We are waiting for that,” he added.

Bangladesh hopes that India will inform us well ahead of time while taking such measures so that they may take necessary preparation in sourcing the food items from other alternative sources at competitive prices, he requested.

On the business between the two countries, Munshi said India is the second largest trading partner of Bangladesh, next to China, and bilateral trade between them has registered an impressive growth in the recent years.

Over the period of last 10 years, the total trade between the two countries increased from USD 5.08 billion in 2010-11 to USD 8.9 billion in 2018-19.

Bangladesh’s export to India, however, is only USD 1.25 billion, he added.

Bangladesh is yet to fully utilise the duty-free market access for most of the products under SAFTA and it needs to expeditiously resolve the non-tariff barriers such as testing of product quality, presence of para tariff, post restriction and application of trade remedial measures among others, he said.

“We strongly believe that proactive actions will help expand our bilateral trade with India, particularly with the North East India. The regulatory barriers are now the serious concerns for all of us.

“Despite high level political commitment, we are far behind in removing regulatory barriers,” Munshi said.

In many cases, these are mounting over the time with unpredictable and non-transparent regulatory barriers being the major hindrance of trade facilitation in the regions, he added.

“I believe that this stakeholders meeting will expeditiously look into these issues and provide pragmatic solutions so that these could be immediately implemented for a win-win benefit,” he said.

The Minister also said that absence of seamless connectivity between Bangladesh and India along with other countries in South Asia remains one of the key barriers for increasing trade.

“Though a number of projects have been initiated under South Asia Sub-Regional Economic Cooperation to construct roads and upgrade facilities and a number of agreements have been signed, but we are yet to reap full benefits of these initiatives,” he added.

Munshi opined that both Bangladesh and North East India can be benefited from improved physical connectivity and people-to-people contact.

“Hence it is important to invest in upgrading and expanding road and rail network with North East India.

Recently we signed the SOP on use of Chittagong and Mongla port may be considered as a significant step for ensuring multi-modal connectivity with North East India.

Better connectivity will enhance consumers’ welfare through access to goods at a competitive price, enhance profit of the firms through access to cheaper inputs and enhance opportunities of the exporter of finished goods to a new market, he added.

Munshi also said that South Asian countries, including Bangladesh and India, are experiencing accelerated economic growth.

Under the leadership of prime minister Sheikh Hasina, Bangladesh is moving ahead. We have achieved 8.13 GDP growth in this year, he said.

The government has been implementing a pro-business and pro-investment policy to spur industrialisation of the country, he added.

Bangladeshi government is in the process of establishing 100 Special Economic Zones and a good number of hi-tech parks in the coming years, the minister said.