A letter sent by the Bangladesh foreign office to the Indian high commission said New Delhi’s ‘abrupt announcement’ undermines the unwritten understanding between the two countries.
Bangladesh has expressed “deep concern” with India at the sudden ban by the Indian government on export on onions after prices rose sharply earlier this week.
On Monday, the Central government banned all exports of onions “with immediate effect” after the price at Maharashtra’s Lalsalgaon wholesale market rose beyond Rs 30 per kg.
According to Bangladeshi media reports, the foreign ministry has sent a demarche to the Indian high commission on Tuesday that pointed the finger at New Delhi for failing to keep Dhaka in the loop.
“The latest abrupt announcement of the government of India on September 14, 2020 undermines the discussion that took place in 2019 and 2020 between the two friendly countries on the matter and the understanding shared,” said the letter from the Bangladesh foreign office.
Bangladesh’s state minister for foreign affairs M. Shahriar Alam told reporters on Tuesday that there had been “an unwritten understanding that India will inform Bangladesh beforehand while taking any decision on such a ban”, as per the Dhaka Tribune.
This was also mentioned in the letter from the foreign ministry, which noted that the Indian announcement “direct impacts the supply of essential food items in the Bangladesh market”.
Referring to the meeting of India-Bangladesh commerce secretaries in January this year, the letter reminded that Bangladeshi officials had asked their counterparts not to impose export restrictions on essential food items that were of demand in Bangladesh. They had also explicitly requested India to inform them in advance of plans to impose any more restrictions in the future.
At that time, Dhaka was still reeling from the ban on export of onions imposed by India in September 2019. This decision led to onions fetching prices of over 300 taka (Rs 260) in Bangladesh last year.
During her visit to India last October, Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikha Hasina had also raised the matter about the abrupt banning of onions. “We are facing some problems because of the ban on onion exports from India. I don’t know why you banned these export. It would have been better if you had alerted us in advance—we could have sourced onions from other countries. You banned it suddenly and it became a problem for us,” she told the India-Bangladesh Business Forum on October 4, 2019.
Prime Minister Hasina’s personal request to inform Dhaka ahead of a possible ban was also mentioned in the foreign office’s letter to the Indian high commission.
Meanwhile, the Bangladesh government has decided to import onions from multiple sources to ensure enough supply of the key cooking ingredient in the local markets.
According to the Dhaka Tribune, prices of onions skyrocketed to over 120 taka per kg (Rs 104 per kg) after the news of India’s ban spread in the country. The newspaper also reported that most shops ran out of onions as people rushed to stockpile the vegetable.
In order to curb the price rise, the Bangladesh government’s trading corporation was selling onions through trucks at a rate of 30 taka per kg. However, with incessant queues and spiralling demand, the Trading Corporation of Bangladesh had to reduce the ration of onions from two kilograms to 1 kg per customer.
The Bangladesh government stated that it will import onions from Turkey and Egypt. However, the first consignment would only reach the Chittagong port in early October.