Imports of five commodities that see high demand during the month of Ramadan rose between 23 percent and 82 percent year-on-year in the first 10 months of the fiscal year.
In the same period, imports of various types of pulse, including gram, increased by 23 percent, according to the central bank statistics. Annual demand for gram is 8 lakh tonnes, 70,000 tonnes of which is consumed during Ramadan, data from the commerce ministry shows.
Bangladesh has produced 10,000 tonnes of gram and imported 1.18 lakh tones this year, Commerce Secretary Mahbub Hossain told reporters yesterday. Letters of credit have been opened for importing another 60,000 tonnes of gram.
Prices of the popular iftar items will not increase during Ramadan though its demand has gone up, Hossain said.
Gram prices fell 15 percent to Tk 55-60 a kg yesterday from a year ago, according to a report of the Trading Corporation of Bangladesh.
The central bank data shows that imports of dates shot up 62 percent in the first 10 months of the fiscal year, while LCs opened for imports rose 82 percent.
Onion imports went up 76 percent in the same period and onion worth $153 million was brought in, according to the LC settlement statistics.
Besides, LCs opened for importing onion increased by 78 percent and LCs have been opened for $165 million for importing the spice used for preparing iftar items.
Annual demand for onion is 22 lakh tones. In the last season, the country produced 13.58 lakh tonnes of onion. Onion is imported mainly from India through land ports.
On average, 200 tonnes of onion are imported a day, the ministry officials said.
Local onions were selling at 3.85 percent lower than in the previous year, while the prices of the imported variety marked a rise of 4.84 percent yesterday, according to the TCB report.
In the first 10 months of the current fiscal year, sugar import was 1.77 percent higher from the corresponding period last year, but the LC opening increased by around 36 percent and LCs were opened for around $665 million.
LC opening for import of sugar soared on the eve of Ramadan, a commerce ministry official said.
Annual demand for sugar is 14.5 lakh tonnes. Sugar prices fell 4 percent to Tk 46-48 a kg yesterday from the previous year.
LCs opened for refined edible oil went up about 30 percent in the first 10 months of 2013-14 from the same period last year, and LCs worth $455 million were opened for importing different varieties of edible oil, according to the central bank.
However, LCs opened for crude edible oil amounted to $700 million though it was about 22 percent lower than in the same period last fiscal year.
Hossain said prices of essentials would not increase in Ramadan.
The items people consume in large quantities are adequate in supply, he said. “If the businessmen artificially increase the prices, the government will intervene in the market through the TCB,” he said.
Necessary steps have been taken so that commodity prices do not shoot up during Ramadan, he said.
An intelligence agency has already identified the spots where extortion takes place, he said. “The list has been sent to the home ministry for taking necessary action.”