Some 18,400 tonnes of onions worth US$7 million were exported to foreign trade partners in the 2017-2018 fiscal year (FY), down 70 per cent compared with the 2016-2017 FY.
The sharp drop in the export volume might be attributed to the temporary suspension on exports due to the soaring price in the local market last year. Onions are now back in the export market, said U Myat Soe, a member of the Mandalay onion merchant group.
Onions are primarily sent to the foreign market through the border gates, as they are perishable, and have a high domestic consumption rate, fetching a high price in the local market.
Myanmar’s onions have penetrated markets in Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, China, Bulgaria, India, Bangladesh, Japan, Pakistan, Indonesia, Mexico, Viet Nam and Venezuela.
There are some 40,000 acres of onion plantations growing the winter and monsoon crops. Nearly one million tonnes of onions are produced every year. Some 900,000 tonnes are kept aside for domestic consumption, before they are exported after excluding the rotten onions. The onion supply chain is not stable, as extensive acres are available for cultivation when they fetch a good price at the end of the harvest season. Onion plantation acres decrease when onions prices are low at the end of the crop season.
The onion price is high when the supply is low. The price drops when there is a glut in the market. As a result, the onion market is unstable every year. Before 2010, onions were banned from export until the country had achieved self-sufficiency. Onion exports started during the previous government’s tenure. During the 2016-2017 FY, some 66,010 tonnes of onions were exported, with 13.17 per cent being excess supply.
Zar Lin Thu (AMIA)