Today, Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina mocked about the difficulty in procuring a supply of onions, both for herself and for her country, after India, the world’s biggest seller of the vegetable, banned exports last month because an extended monsoon delayed harvests leading to shriveled supplies and runaway prices.

In Delhi, the Prime Minister will attend the India-Bangladesh Forum, being held on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum, was pitching her country as a fast-growing economy and attractive business destination when she broke off to ask the center why she had not been given notice of the ban. 

As the audience laughed, Ms. Hasina said that “It has become difficult for us to get onions. I don’t know why you stopped the supply. I’ve told my cook to make food without onions!”

The center banned on September 29, “with immediate effect”, the export of onions after prices jumped to Rs.4,500 per 100 kilograms, the highest in nearly six years.

The Directorate General of Foreign Trade, an arm of the commerce ministry which deals with export- and import-related issues, said in a statement, “… export of all varieties of onions… is prohibited with immediate effect”.

“Some notice (about the ban) would have been nice,” Ms. Hasina said, adding with a smile, “It was stopped so suddenly that it has become difficult. The next time you decide to do something like this… some advance notice would be nice.”

India’s export ban has badly affected Bangladesh, with prices crossing Rs. 10,000 per 100 kilograms in the capital city of Dhaka. To increase supplies and control prices in its markets, the nation has turned to the likes of Myanmar, Egypt, Turkey, and China.

Taking steps to fight the crisis, Bangladesh has started sales of subsidized onions through the state-run Trading Corporation of Bangladesh (TCB). Humayun Kabir, the TCB spokesman pointed out the time taken to import the now precious vegetable is also a concern.

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