Syndicate behind potato price spiral

A syndicate is active to increase the price of essentials by creating artificial crises of commodities throughout the year, targeting specific products, experts said.

Recently, the prices of different essential commodities, especially vegetables, onions and potatoes have skyrocketed, despite adequate supply.

Although the government has taken multifarious measures including fixing the price of potatoes, no significant decline has been observed in the kitchen markets.   

According to the Department of Agriculture Marketing statistics, about 10.9 million tonnes of potato has been produced this year against the annual demand of about 7.7 million tonnes. 

As per the statistics, there should be a surplus of more than 3 million tonnes of potato; despite some amount of potato being exported. There is no possibility of shortage.

Meanwhile, more than 4 million tonnes of produced potatoes have been stored in cold storages. Of this, 55 percent potatoes have been taken out of cold storages before fixing price. 

Thus, 1.8 million tonnes of potatoes were still in the cold storage. Of this, 0.8 million tonnes are excluded as seed potatoes while 1.0 million tonnes of potatoes are in the storage for sale.

According to this statistics, the syndicate has made an extra profit of Tk 500 crore at the wholesale level.

Similarly at the retail level, the syndicate has made an extra profit of around Tk 1000 crore.

Although the government has fixed the price of potato at Tk 35 per kg at the retail level, it has been selling at Tk 45 to 50 per kg at different kitchen markets in the capital.

In this situation, experts suggested taking immediate action against the unscrupulous traders by enforcing law.  

Consumers have expressed dissatisfaction over the price hike. 

 Talking to concerned officials of the government, this reporter learned that there is adequate supply of essentials. 

Golam Rahman, president of the Consumers Association of Bangladesh (CAB), told Bangladesh Post, “Consumers are constantly being cheated due to the manipulation of unscrupulous traders in the market. Just fining or campaigning will not solve this problem. Those who are destabilizing the market by raising the prices of goods, must be severely punished.”

He said, “The government has fixed the price of potatoes. At first, the law needs to be properly enforced at the wholesale level. After two or three days, it needs to be enforced at the retail level.”

“Besides, the government will have to increase intelligence surveillance with multiple market surveillance agencies to identify the dishonest traders and impose fines as well as jail terms on them,” he said, adding, “Then discipline will come to the market. Consumers will be benefited.”

Meanwhile, the government is also working to break the vicious cycle.

On Friday, Awami League general secretary and bridges minister Obaidul Quader said, “The government is looking into the overall situation. A syndicate is working behind the price hike. The government is working to break that cycle.”

On the other hand, Commerce Minister Tipu Munshi said, “The prices of some products are going up. One of the reasons is the adverse effects of nature. The floods had destroyed vegetables in many places.”

About the potato, he said, “The price of potatoes will come down within 8 to 10 days. And, by importing onions, we will be able to bring it under Tk 50-55 per kg.”