Analysis of the onion value chain in Bangladesh: Towards a strategic action agenda for the Dhaka city corporations

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Onions are a popular product in Bangladesh, mostly used as spices to give aroma, taste and flavor to food. Onions are used in all types of curries and salads being prepared on a daily basis in homekitchens and restaurants. Generally for vegetable supply chains in Bangladesh, post-harvest losses and shrinkage are considered main weaknesses and losses are estimated to be higher than 5%. Food Loss and Waste (FLW) studies for onion in Bangladesh are scarce but indicate that the loss percentage increases with the length of the supply chain. An opportunity for the onion supply chain in Bangladesh is to work towards reducing food losses at various links of the chain. This onion value chain analysis in Bangladesh is performed as a first step with the aim to develop a strategic action agenda on the onion supply chain for the four city corporations in Dhaka. It focusses on identifying the leverage points for reducing food losses for onions in order to improve the performance of the onion value chain and thereby to increase the amount of onions that reach consumers and enhance food availability. This strategic action agenda focusses on the (post-)harvest supply chain up to and including food retail and processing. The analysis of the onion value chain is drafted based upon data and information gathered in two literature studies, a workshop conducted with multiple actors in the supply chain and extensive interviews conducted with individual actors in the supply chain. The interviewees included agricultural producers, intermediaries and truck drivers in Kushtia, Pabna, Faridpur, Rajshahi and Rajbari districts, and wholesalers, retailers, mobile vendors and institutional users located in Dhaka North, Dhaka South, Narayanganj and Gazipur city corporation area. Part of the produced onions cannot be sold or do not meet the right quality, and do not go to the intended market. Products that do not have the right quality for the intended market are used for home consumption, charity, animal feed or landfill. Losses occur during harvesting, since some onions were harvested immature, onions were perished or damaged during the harvesting activity, or the agricultural producers remain with unsold onions. Onions in Bangladesh spoil quickly due to the poor quality onions due to wrong use of inputs, and the high moisture content due to improper drying. The economic losses at agricultural producers are estimated at 2.4% of the total production volume. The highest economic losses in the post-harvest supply chain occur at mobile vendors (4.6% of total input volume) and retailers (4.1% of total input volume), since they most often lack the ability to sell all onions before spoiling. Overall low quality onions will perish in time and often express itself later in the supply chain. This forces agricultural producers and other actors to sell their onions quickly after harvest or purchasing, and limit their ability to store the onions till after the peak supply to get a better price. Other challenges related to the post-harvest supply chain originate in the enabling environment. Transportation faces challenges such as extortion on the road, bad road communication and high fuel costs. Another major reported barrier for optimization of the onion value chain in Bangladesh is price volatility leaving actors forcefully to sell at throwaway prices, or contrary leading to high consumer prices for onions. Underlying reasons for price volatility of onions are related to syndicates that artificially drive up or down prices as well as onion imports during harvesting times when already enough onions are available in the market. This also complicates sharing accurate market information. The majority of the unsold onions ends as landfill (FLW) followed by home consumption (not FLW). Opportunities are related to proper mechanisms to control prices by controlling onion imports and improving information and communication systems, creating incentives to generate the possibility to invest and improve the quality and quantity of the onions produced, and improve the transportation system and facilities towards the city of Dhaka and start decentralizing by reducing the pressure from the main urban areas.
Original languageDutch
Place of PublicationWageningen
PublisherWageningen Food & Biobased Research
Number of pages43
Publication statusPublished - 2021

Publication series

NameReport / Wageningen Food & Biobased Research

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