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India bans onion exports as prices treble in a month

India on Monday (14) prohibited exports of onion after its crop was damaged and harvesting delayed by excessive rain, industry officials told Reuters.

India is the world’s biggest exporter of onions, a staple of South Asian cooking.

The surprise move, which took immediate effect on Monday, could help cut prices in India, but boost prices in Asian nations such as Malaysia, Nepal and Sri Lanka, apart from Bangladesh, since they rely on Indian shipments.

Meanwhile, onion prices in Bangladesh jumped by more than 50% on Tuesday (15), following the ban on exports by largest supplier India, industry officials told Reuters.

“What will we eat now?” asked Dhaka garment worker Munna Khan, who was laid off from his job in March after the coronavirus outbreak shuttered many businesses, hitting incomes for many, while driving up the prices of commodities.

“Prices of all items went up when we have no income.”

Retail prices of the root vegetable, a staple of subcontinental cuisine, jumped in Dhaka to 90 taka to 100 taka ($1.06 to $1.18) per kg on Tuesday, from 60 taka on Monday and 30 taka at the beginning of the month.

“Many trucks are standing on the Indian side with onions,” said trader Saiful Islam. “Now we are wondering what will happen to those supplies.”

India is the biggest supplier of onions to neighbouring Bangladesh, which buys a yearly average of more than 350,000 tons.

Onion prices in Bangladesh had jumped to a record 250 taka in 2019 after a similar Indian ban forced the Government to fly in onions.