In spite of the continuous measures taken by the government to control the sky rocketing price of kitchen essentials, the cost of onion, rice, and other commodities continues to rise.
After India banned export of onion in September, it created a ripple effect that quickly spread. Prices of the kitchen staple shot through the roof, giving nightmares to all.
At retail markets, onions are sold at Tk 250 per kg. On top of it, on Tuesday last, a rumour had spread about the price hike of salt at different parts of the country. Taking advantage of the rumour, some unscrupulous businessmen sold salt at Tk 100 per kg. The normal price is Tk 35 per kg.
In addition, due to the strike of transport workers, the price of rice has gone up slightly, despite the considerable reserve.
In such a situation, consumers are dissatisfied with the price hike of consumer goods and they blame the irresponsibility of the relevant ministries of the government and the lack of regular market monitoring.
The authorities concerned met with the businessmen at the Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industries (FBCCI) building in Motijheel on Sunday to normalize the overall price situation. The meeting was chaired by FBCCI President Fazle Fahim, and Commerce Minister Tipu Munshi, Food Minister Sadhan Chandra Majumdar, NBR chairman Mosharraf Hossain Bhuiyan, heads of industry and agriculture and other business leaders were present in the meeting.
Commerce Minister Tipu Munshi gave the assurance that onion prices will come down within 10 days when imported onions will come to markets.
The cost of importing these onions up to Chittagong port will be Tk 35 a kg. But in the retail market, it will sell for a maximum of Tk 60, Munshi said, adding that onion prices will be stable once the locally-grown ones come to markets by next 10 days.
“To meet the total domestic demand, we have to import 90-95% onions from India. But India suddenly stopped exporting onions, causing problems in our country's markets. To deal with the onion crisis, we decided to import onions from alternative markets such as Egypt and Turkey, he explained.
But in the first case we did not understand that it will take about a month for the imported onions to arrive. Therefore, the Ministry arranged a series of air cargo services to lift onions, as part of measures to address an increase in onion prices. Though the cost of onion brought by aircraft will be much higher, we will sell this onion at Tk 45.
But the market trend is still upward even after the onion import. After the abnormal increase in price, locally grown onions are being sold as high as Tk 200 a kg.
After the meeting, the chairman of the NBR said, There’s direct message from the government, if we find evidence of onion price manipulation in wholesale markets, the dealer will be punished for overcharging. We want to assure consumers that there will be no problem in the future on the issue of prices of essential goods, including salt, oil, sugar, pulses, he said. There is no shortage of commodities including rice, pulses and oil. In the future, the cost of goods will not rise.”
Responding to a question, the chairman of the NBR said, Traders will do business, but moral aspects must be kept in mind. There is no shortage of essentials in the market. But if anyone causes problems immorally, action will be taken as per the law. The government is keeping an eye on hoarders. Action will be taken if any information is found against any traders manipulating the market.”
We have no such tax on agricultural products. And since we are self-sufficient in rice production, we have increased the tariff on rice imports. It will be reduced again if necessary. He said that the work of collecting information on the products which were imported including onion is underway,” he added.
FBCCI President Fazle Fahim said, “At the meeting we discussed about the year-long demand for essential commodities, production of goods in Bangladesh, import, storage system, logistics management and necessary pricing guidance. He said that a decision has been taken at the meeting if any issues of continuity will arise in the future.”