NEW DELHI: Bangladesh's Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Friday took a toungue-in-cheek dig at neighbour India for abruptly banning exports of onions, a staple ingredient in Bangladeshi cuisine, last week causing prices of tuber to jump manifold in Dhaka and creating a political headache for her.
"Mujhe maloom nahi kyun aapne pyaaz bandh kar diya? Maine cook ko bol diya ab se khana mein pyaaz bandh kardo (I do not know why you stopped exporting onions to us, I have instructed my cook to stop using the vegetable in our cooking)," Hasina said at an investor summit here, with a wry smile.
The barb was meant for Indian Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal who was present at the function and had in a knee jerk reaction to rising domestic prices, banned exports.
"Pyaaz mein thoda dikkat ho gaya hamare liye. (Onions have created a problem for us)," the Prime Minister said, with an understated humour.
India, the world's biggest seller of the tuber, banned export of onion last week after an extended monsoon delayed harvests leading to shriveled supplies and runaway prices. India sold some 2.2 million tones of onions in the international market in 2018.
The result of India's ban was that prices of onions have shot up from Taka 30 (Rs 25.16) a kg to more than Taka 100 (Rs 83.86) a kg in Dhaka.
Bangladesh has frantically tried to ship in onion supplies from Egypt and China but delivery will take three weeks to one month, a Bangladeshi diplomat complained.
Onion is a politically sensitive vegetable in the entire sub-continent. While India's export ban was meant to check rising prices at home, it has also created a political headache for its neighbor.
"Some notice (about the ban) would have been nice," 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."
Indian exporters say that Malaysia another importer of Indian onions is facing a similar problem.
"In international trade such bans create problems, as our market is taken away by others as buyers see us as unreliable. The better way out would have been to fix a minimum export price to discourage excessive exports," said Vikram Sahney, a commodities trader.