Source: Xinhua | 2019-12-17 | Editor:Kylie
Chinese onions have been solely sustaining the demand of both the Nepali market and households, following the export ban on onions by India, according to the authorities.
Nepal has remained heavily dependent on India for onion as limited local production does not fulfill the demand of the domestic market.
However, following India's onion crisis since September and strict ban for the last 10 days, the demand of Chinese onions is surging in Nepal.
With around 90-100 metric tons of onions every day in the past, the market received 40-45 metric tons of onions from China after the ban, taking up 50 percent of the total, according to Kalimati Fruits and Vegetable Market, one of the biggest and oldest vegetable markets that cater the maximum demand of capital city.
"But since the last 10 days, we have 100 percent Chinese onions in the market," Tejendra Prasad Poudel, Executive Director at Kalimati Fruits and Vegetable Market Development Board, told Xinhua on Sunday.
According to the board that handles over 500 wholesale vegetable and fruits shops in the premise, there had been only occasional import of Chinese onions in a small volume in the past, particularly before Indian bans onions export.
The official informed that there was a limited quantity of smuggled Indian onions for around two months until it has completely stopped since the last 10 days.
"The Chinese onion is being imported in Nepal through both Rasuwagadhi and Tatopani border point. Chinese onion has been a timely alternative for Nepali consumers who are reeling under crisis," the official added.
Traders said they have been using both the border points to import onions recently and the custom clearance task for onions has been much smoother than before.
Rishi Shrestha, a trader in the Kalimati market and a prominent Chinese onion importer who has been doing business of dry vegetables for two decades, told Xinhua that it usually took around 10 days to bring the onions to Kathmandu after they placed the order.
"Earlier, Chinese onions were sold and consumed only in Kathmandu valley. But since last few days, we have been sending it to different cities like Narayanghat, Butwal and Pokhara. It's been going everywhere," Shrestha told Xinhua.
The trader, who has also been importing Chinese garlic for years, further said that they are importing at least four different types of Chinese onions depending upon the colors and quality.
"Chinese onions have huge demand in hotels and restaurants, as they are bigger in size, have different sort of taste and cheaper than the Indian onions," Shrestha added.
The wholesale price of Chinese onions is in range of Rs 110-140 per kg in the Kalimati market, whereas it is sold in different rates outside. However, the price of Indian onions had reached up to Rs 250 per kg.
Some households, who have lessened the consumption of the important ingredient in their kitchens due to the raised price, many have started opting Chinese onions.
Anjali Shahi, a consumer who also runs a small vegetable shop in Kalimati area and sells around 10 kg onions per day, said there is no option but to sell and consume Chinese onions, whose taste is different than regular ones.
"Chinese onions are filled with much moisture or water," said 45-year-old Shahi. "It's available and cheaper. So, it has been a great help."
According to Trade and Export Promotion Centre, the country imported onion worth Rs. 5.62 billion in the last fiscal year 2018-19. It imported fresh onions and shallots worth 14.4 million Nepali Rupees and dried onions worth 5.19 million Nepali Rupees during the first quarter of the current fiscal year that began in mid-July.
Despite of being an agricultural country, Nepal relies on other countries particularly India, not just for onions but many other vegetables and fruits.
Trader Shrestha believes that the government should prioritize production rather than depending on other countries.
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