With export consignments not being able to reach Bangladesh, onion exporters in Maharashtra are in a fix. Over 400 trucks of onions, exporters say, are waiting for the green signal from the local administration at the four crossing over points in West Bengal. Exporters have written to both the Central as well as the state government about the impasse, urging for a quick resolution to the problem.
Bangladesh is the largest importer of Indian onions, buying around 30,000 to 40,000 tonnes of the kitchen staple every month. Majority of the trade happens via the road, with goods carrying trucks crossing over at four major points at Petropole , Malda, Chandrabhanga and Hili. Road transport is relatively cheaper than train, which is why most trade between these two countries happens via road.
Notwithstanding the COVID-19 crisis, exports of onions to Bangladesh had gone on seamlessly in April. Mid-sized onions are exported to Bangladesh, while larger ones normally go to the Middle-East. Given the robust exports, the average traded price of the bulb in the majority of the wholesale markets in Maharashtra’s Nashik district has been between Rs. 700 to Rs. 1,000 per quintal.
However, since the last week of April, things took a down turn, when the border district in West Bengal decided to stop the trucks. A trader as well as exporters operating out of Laslagaon’s wholesale market in Nashik’s Niphad taluka said the authorities of the bordering districts of West Bengal have started insisting that drivers and other staff of trucks be quarantined for 14 days.
“This has led to a large pile up of trucks at the four-border checkpoints. The heat has brought about quality deterioration in the packed bulb,” the trader said,
Traders pointed out that the impasse has come from the district authorities, while the Border Security Force (BSF) has given trucks a green signal.
Ajit Shah, president of the onion exporters association, admitted that the present problem has foxed the whole value chain. “We have to find out a solution to this fast,” he said. Traders said transportation charges via road are much cheaper than goods-carrying trains. While the former works out to be just Rs 6 per kg, the latter is around Rs 250 per kg.”
Since exports have stopped, average trader price at Lasalgaon’s market has dipped to Rs. 400 to Rs. 500 per quintal. The impasse comes at a time when the rabi or summer crop has started arriving in the market. If road transport remains closed, traders said prices will plummet further.
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