Edible oil crunch: Taking shine off Eid for many
A banker in Naogaon did not find soybean oil in the local market. A woman in Natore was lucky to score a one-litre bottle for an unusually higher price. A private firm employee in Chattogram decided to make do with mustard oil after failing to find soybean oil in her neighborhood.
Just before Eid, people in different districts across the country are failing to buy soybean oil, thanks to what analysts say is an artificial crisis created by certain businesses out to make more money.
The fact that there is adequate stock of the edible oil in Bangladesh is making no impact in the market.
The situation worsened after export of palm oil was banned in Indonesia. About 53 percent of the cooking oil used in Bangladesh is palm oil and 80 percent of it comes from Indonesia.
The market manipulators sensed that the demand for soybean oil would rise further in the coming days and began to hoard whatever volume of cooking oil they had.
Many people in the country may not even be able to buy any edible oil before Eid.
"Shopkeepers say bottled soybean oil would be available in a couple of days. I am waiting," said Sheikh Russel, a banker of Mohadevpur, Naogaon.
Chameli Sarkar, a resident of the Natore town, went to Nichabazar yesterday. "At least 10 shopkeepers said there was no bottled soybean oil because there was no supply. Then I bought a litre of non-bottled oil for Tk 190."
Amir Hossain, a resident of Kazir Dewri area in Chattogram, who works for a private company, said he went to two kitchen markets, but failed to find soyabean oil. "Then I went to a third market and settled for mustard oil."
The picture was similar in Bagerhat.
According to Trading Corporation of Bangladesh's data on market rates from April 28, the lowest price of soyabean oil in Dhaka is Tk 184 per litre, which is Tk 29 more from a week ago. The price of palm oil has increased by Tk 20 reaching Tk 165 a litre.
The government fixed price of each 1 litre bottle of soyabean oil at Tk 160 and 5 litre bottle at Tk 760.
Commerce ministry Additional Secretary AHM Safiquzzaman earlier said the edible oil crisis was artificial.
The country has edible oil stocks enough to meet the demand for at least one and a half months.
According to the National Board of Revenue, over 8.85 lakh tonnes of palm oil and 4.65 lakh tonnes of soybean oil have been imported through the Chattogram and Mongla ports this year as of April 25.
Customs officials yesterday said over 45,000 tonnes of palm oil, 64,000 tonnes of soybean oil were waiting to be released from Chattogram port.
Meanwhile, Mokhlesur Rahman, a resident of Rupnagar in the capital, managed to buy a 2-litre bottle of soyabean oil after visiting 12 grocery stores yesterday. But he intended to buy a 5 litre one.
Soybean oil prices rose over the last few days in Pabna, Rajshahi, and Bogra.
Selim, a distributor of Teer soyabean oil at the capital's Karwan Bazar, said he had not received any deliveries in the past week.
Contacted, Biswajit Saha, director (corporate and regulatory affairs) at City Group that makes Teer, said the distributor's statement was not true and that the shopkeepers were creating the crisis by hoarding excessively.
Ghulam Rahman, president of the Consumers Association of Bangladesh, said "Consumers are the victims. The businesses are simply trying to make more profits."
He urged the government to take appropriate measures immediately.
"I have never seen such a crisis of soyabean oil before Eid," he said.
This paper spoke to consumers and traders in 15 districts for this report.