Onion price hike brings tears to Bangladeshi eyes

A man works at an onion wholesale market in the Kawran Bazar in Dhakaa, Bangladesh. (Reuters)
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Updated 17 September 2020

Onion price hike brings tears to Bangladeshi eyes

  • Dhaka desperate to beef up local stocks after India halts exports

DHAKA: Onions from the Netherlands? How about Myanmar?

Dhaka resident Masuma Begum said that she will buy the essential commodity from any part of the world a day after India placed a ban on its onion exports, leading to prices almost doubling in Bangladesh.

“Onions are a mandatory ingredient in our cuisine. It’s a part of our daily food habit,” Begum, 39, told Arab News.

She said the dramatic price increase had made it “difficult to buy even the minimum quantity of onions.”

Until Sunday, onions cost 50 cents per kilogram. By Wednesday, they were being sold at up to $1.2 per kilogram.

“My family needs around two kilograms of onions per week. If the current situation prevails, it will increase my expenses a lot. It’s an extra financial burden on our family of five,” Begum said. 

This isn’t the first time the high price of the commodity has led to tears of frustration for consumers and traders in the country.

A similar ban by India on Sept. 30 last year lifted prices to $3 per kilogram.

To maintain supplies, Bangladesh has started importing onions from Pakistan, Turkey and Egypt.

Assuring residents that “there is nothing to worry about,” Commerce Minister Tipu Munshi said on Wednesday that the country has 500,000 tons of onions in reserve.

“Within one month, we will normalize the supply chain. Already 1,300 tons of onion are being loaded on ships in Myanmar and will reach Bangladesh shortly,” Munshi told a press briefing.

He said that residents “will have to compromise with their onion demands for one month only.”

According to traders at the capital’s wholesale market in Shyambazar, around 80 percent of Bangladesh’s annual onion consumption is sourced from India.

“We prefer to import onions from India as it takes less time which results in minimum damage to the perishable goods,“ Wahid Hasan told Arab News.

 The trader said there was “enough supply” to meet everyone’s needs and blamed panic buying for the “artificial crisis.”

However, on Wednesday, anticipating a crisis in the onion market, Bangladeshi traders began importing from China, Egypt, Myanmar, the Netherlands, Pakistan and Turkey. 

“We have issued import permission for around 50,000 metric tons of onions. We don’t want to cause people to suffer,” Ashaduzzaman Bulbul, deputy director of the Chottogram Plant Quarantine Station, told Arab News. 

 “We hope the first lot of imported onions will reach our port from Myanmar soon,” he added. 

However, the Trading Corporation of Bangladesh, a wing of the Commerce Ministry that works to maintain supplies of essential commodities, said it had beefed up operations to control the market price.  “We have started selling onions at a reduced price through open market sales across the country. Every day, 276 trucks deliver the goods in different localities so that people can buy at an affordable price,” a spokesman told Arab News.

“Different sourcing channels from some other countries like Myanmar are also underway. People will get sufficient supply of onions in the market,” he added.


Study finds AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine follows genetic instructions

Updated 54 min 4 sec ago

Study finds AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine follows genetic instructions

  • Bristol University virology expert David Matthews: The vaccine is doing everything we expected and that is only good news in our fight against the illness
  • AstraZeneca, which is developing the vaccine with Oxford University researchers, is seen as a frontrunner in the race to produce a vaccine to protect against COVID-19

LONDON: AstraZeneca’s Oxford COVID-19 vaccine accurately follows the genetic instructions programmed into it by its developers to successfully provoke a strong immune response, according to a detailed analysis carried out by independent UK scientists.
“The vaccine is doing everything we expected and that is only good news in our fight against the illness,” said David Matthews, an expert in virology from Bristol University, who led the research.
AstraZeneca, which is developing the vaccine with Oxford University researchers, is seen as a frontrunner in the race to produce a vaccine to protect against COVID-19.
The first data from late-stage large-scale clinical trials being conducted in several countries around the world, including Brazil, the United States and Britain, are expected to be released before the end of the year.
The vaccine — known either as ChAdOx1 or AZD1222 — is made by taking a common cold virus called an adenovirus from chimpanzees and deleting about 20% of the virus’s instructions. This means it is impossible for the vaccine to replicate or cause disease in humans.
The Bristol researchers’ focus was to assess how often and how accurately the vaccine is copying and using the genetic instructions programmed into it by its designers. These instructions detail how to make the spike protein from the coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2 that causes COVID-19.
Once the spike protein is made, the immune system reacts to it, training the immune system to identify a real COVID-19 infection.
“This is an important study as we are able to confirm that the genetic instructions underpinning this vaccine ... are correctly followed when they get into a human cell,” Matthews said in a statement about the work.
His team’s research was not peer reviewed by other scientists, but was published as a preprint before review.