KATHMANDU, Nov. 27 (Xinhua) -- Umesh Prasad Gupta, a vegetable vendor at Sankhamul, Kathmandu has been selling Chinese onion for the last few days as prices of Indian onion in the domestic market has been soaring.
Nepal has remained heavily dependent on India for onion as limited local production does not fulfill the demand of the domestic market.
Since India imposed export ban on its onion on Sept. 29, the Himalayan country has been receiving limited quantity of smuggled Indian onions through the porous border between the two countries. As a result, prices of Indian onions have soared, heralding the entry of Chinese onions in the Nepali market.
"I started to sell Chinese onion as they are cheaper compared to Indian ones," Gupta told Xinhua Wednesday. "I am selling the Chinese onion at 180 Nepali Rupees (1.56 U.S. dollars) per kg while I have to sell Indian onion at 225 Nepali Rupees (1.96 U.S. dollars) per kg." Before the ban, onion price was selling at less than 100 Nepali Rupees (87 cents) per kg.
But, according to Gupta, there are not many individuals consumers who buy Chinese onions because they have different tastes compared to Indian onions with which Nepali consumers are getting used to for long. "But restaurants who are seeking cheaper option to reduce their cost, are mostly purchasing Chinese onions," Gupta said.
According to the Nepal's Department of Customs, the Himalayan country imported fresh and chilled onions and shallots worth 14.4 million Nepali Rupees (125,671 U.S. dollar) and dried onions worth 5.19 million Nepali Rupees (45,274 U.S. dollar) during the first quarter of the current fiscal year that began in mid-July.
Nepali officials at the customs office bordering China also said that since India imposed export ban on onions, Nepali traders have been importing Chinese onions.
Punya Bikram Khadka, chief customs officer at the Rasuwa Customs office bordering China, told Xinhua on Tuesday that around 10 trucks of Chinese onions made entry into Nepal since India imposed the export ban.
"During the recent festive season in October, they were mostly imported. But, import from China is not so big because most of the demands are fulfilled through smuggled onions from India," Khadka said.
According to him, Nepal imported 238.58 tonnes of onions from China until recently.
Before the Indian ban, there had been no import of Chinese onions, said Khadka.
Most of the inland country's trade with China currently takes place through the Rasuwa customs.
Some consignments of Chinese onions were also imported through Tatopani customs office, another customs office close to Nepal-China border, which was non-functional after the 2015 earthquake and had started functioning recently after both sides agreed to reopen the border.
Onions are widely used as a part of spices or vegetables for daily consumption in Nepal.