The price of red onion sored recently in Ethiopia, due to illegal exports to the neighboring countries, causing a shortage of one of the most key vegetables in almost all Ethiopian dishes.

On average the price of red onion last year was 15 birr per kilogram but currently, a kilogram of onion is being sold up to 40 birr causing extra burden to the community in addition to the economic challenges caused by coronavirus pandemic.

State Minister of Trade Eshete Asfaw told state-affiliated media Fana Broadcasting Corporations that a task force established by the ministry had been studying the reasons for arguably the highest onion price increase in the history of Ethiopian market, and the result showed that illegal dealers are majorly responsible.

“Officials recently have caught 11 trucks full of onion ready to be smuggled to one of the neighboring countries,” said Eshete. He added that Kenya, Djibouti, and Somalia are the major destinations for the illegal export of onions and also tomatoes.

For years Ethiopia used to import thousands of kilograms of onion from Sudan to fulfil the local need, whereas the import has stopped due to the Covid-19 pandemic this year. The State Minister said works are being done to restart the import to increase the abundance of the vegetable in the market.

In addition, the ministry has also embargoed exports of vegetables like onion and tomato temporarily until the local need is fulfilled, sending letters to custom offices notifying them of the decision.