Everybody is not complaining about the rising prices of onion. The steep hike has brought a cheer to traders, transporters and labourers at the Integrated Check Post (ICP), Attari. The ICP that has seen a dip in trade due to tension between India and Pakistan, is now abuzz with activity thanks to onions being imported from Afghanistan via the land route.
On Monday, 110 onion trucks were parked at the ICP in Attari, ready to leave for different parts of the country. It was the maximum number of trucks carrying onions stationed at ICP in one day over the last one month period.
There has been no trade between India and Pakistan since the removal of special status for Kashmir in August. However, trade between India and Afghanistan hasn’t stopped via the Attari-Wagha border.
“The trade at Attari-Wagha border had come to almost a standstill after removal of special status for Kashmir. But on Monday 110 trucks full of onion left for Delhi and other parts of India from ICP,” said Manav Taneja, a trader.
“These were maximum numbers of trucks (on Monday) since the onion crisis erupted. There are more trucks waiting in Pakistan and we hope that the ICP will remain full of activity for coming few weeks,” said Taneja.
Shinda, a truck union president, said, “The onion imported via Attari will not only control prices in open market, but is has given employment to many truck drivers and helpers who were not able to pay installments to banks due to no business between India and Pakistan since August.”
He added that “transporters have been facing tough times as there is hardly any business via ICP now days and onions have come as temporary relief for us”.
Gursahib Singh, a labourer and leader of a union representing registered labourers at Attari, said: “Earlier, there would be very few trucks of dry fruits from Afganistan which will be unloaded at the ICP. But we have got some work as onion trucks are coming. Still, we have been facing some payment issues and hope officials will solve the issue and not make us to strike and stop onion trade.”
“Without onions, we would be dealing with 20 to 30 trucks daily but onions have brought us some hope. Many labourers are affected due to no business between India and Pakistan,” added Gursahib.
On an average, every year around 44,000 trucks would come from Pakistan to India via the ICP loaded with Pakistani and Afghanistani goods. However, this number is expected to be considerably lower in financial year 2019-2020. “As to what extent, these onions will be helpful in controlling prices in India depends upon market conditions and players. Most of the onion that comes from Afghanistan is sold to India via commission agents by sellers in Afghanistan and open market is always for making profit. But certainly, the quantity of onions is going to impact prices in open market. Still, the government can have better control over onion prices if it buys onions directly from Afghanistan traders,” said a importer.