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Bangladesh asks India to resume onion exports, upset over breach of ‘unwritten understanding’

A worker harvests onions on a farm near Umrana, Maharashtra, India, on Tuesday, Nov. 11, 2014. Dhiraj Singh | Bloomberg | Getty Images. Sketched by the Pan Pacific Agency.

DHAKA, Sep 17, 2020, ThePrint. Bangladesh has asked India to immediately resume onion exports even as it has now decided to procure the commodity from other markets like Turkey and Egypt, ThePrint reported.

Addressing a press conference in Dhaka Wednesday, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs M. Shahriar Alam said India and Bangladesh have an “unwritten understanding” that New Delhi will inform Dhaka prior to imposing any kind of ban on the export of the commodity, which is a key cooking ingredient in the local markets.

“We are expecting a positive result soon in this regard, Dhaka has requested New Delhi to revoke its ban on onion export as India earlier had made an unofficial pledge to Bangladesh of a continuing supply of onion here,” he said.

Bangladesh High Commissioner to India Mohammad Imran also urged India’s Ministry of External Affairs to look into the matter as he sent out a diplomatic note.

Dhaka is upset as the “friendly” neighbours have an understanding that New Delhi will inform beforehand about such a move in order for Bangladesh to take necessary action, sources in the Bangladesh government said. This understanding was reached after India took a similar action last year, said the sources.

According to the sources, prices of the commodity shot through the roof after India’s Ministry of Commerce and Industry announced the move Monday banning all varieties of onion that were earlier allowed to be exported freely.

In a statement, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Bangladesh also said the Sheikh Hasina government has decided to import onions from multiple sources to ensure enough supply.

“In line with the decision, the Government has already taken steps to import onions from Turkey and Egypt. The consignment of the onions is expected to reach Chittagong port early next month,” it said.

Upset Bangladesh

Bangladesh is the biggest buyer of onions from India. It is also upset that New Delhi took this decision at the same time when Dhaka decided to export the popular hilsa fish to India due to the upcoming festive season. Dhaka has decided to ship 1,457 tonnes of the fish to India until October.

The onion issue had rattled the friendly neighbouring country even last year when India took a similar step. It had even induced Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to taunt India by taking a dig at Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal.

However, in January this year, both sides decided to settle the issue by coming to an agreement that New Delhi will keep Dhaka informed of any such move in the future.

India is one of the top global exporters of onion. The decision to ban the exports was taken with the aim of increasing the availability of the key commodity and checking its prices.

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