Soybean oil: Many stores still face supply crunch
After the new prices came into effect, edible oil companies started supplying bottled, loose soybean and palm oil through distributors from Saturday.
However, the supplies have not reached all areas at the retail level yet -- three days after the prices of the essential cooking ingredient saw a record hike.
Traders say it will take a few more days for supplies to return to normalcy.
The Daily Star correspondents visited kitchen markets in several districts yesterday and saw consumers going from store to store in search of soybean oil.
Only a few shops were selling it and some took advantage of the crisis and charged newly fixed prices for previous supplies.
The soybean oil crisis began before Eid due to a shortage of supply. In this situation, the government on Thursday increased the prices of the bottled soybean oil by Tk 38 per litre to Tk 198, loose soybean oil to Tk 180 per litre and palm oil to Tk 172 per litre. The new prices took effect on Friday.
Yesterday, 40 shops in Mirpur, Karwan Bazar and Farmgate areas in the capital were visited, and 24 of those did not have oil.
The scenario was the same in many markets in Chattogram, Barishal, Sherpur, Jamalpur, Naogaon, Kushtia and several other districts.
Zakir Hossain, manager of Ramganj General Store in Karwan Bazar, said he had received 76 litres of oil from the Teer Soyabean Oil and Pusti brands yesterday. "I got one-fifth of the demand, and almost all is sold out."
Mohammad Siddique, a dealer of Pusti in the same market, said he had received 11,200 litres of oil from the company so far.
"I've provided half of it. The rest will also be distributed. The oil will reach the retail level within a week."
Our correspondent visited Kazir Dewri, Andarkillah, Chawkbazar Aturar Depot, and Hamzarbagh kitchen markets in Chattogram and found only three shops selling soybean oil.
"The dealers came yesterday and took orders. They said they will be able to supply oil in two or three days," said Aminul Haque, owner of Nihad Store at Hamzarbagh kitchen market.
Anwar Hossain, a resident of Kazir Dewri, said, "I had no edible oil in my house over the last two days. I was then forced to buy sunflower oil."
OLD STOCKS, NEW PRICES
Several shops in Chattogram and Sherpur have been selling previously collected supplies of bottled oil at the newly fixed prices. Some have been selling at a price higher than the new ones fixed by the government.
According to the Trading Corporation of Bangladesh, some traders have been selling oil at Tk 210.
One- and two-litre bottles of brand Fresh's soybean oil were found at Akbar Shah Store and Shahidul Store at Hamzarbagh and Hillview areas of the port city. They are selling the one-litre bottles at Tk 200 and two-litre bottles at Tk 400.
The shop owners and employees declined to comment. They, however, claimed the bottles were collected before Eid.
In the Sreebordi Upazila Market of Sherpur district, Pusti's one-litre bottled soyabean oil, which sold at Tk 168, now sells at Tk 198.
Meanwhile, after the price hike, bottled soybean oil was released in the market from Saturday at the new prices, with the old price tags being removed from branded bottles.
"I don't know anything [about old supplies being sold at new prices]. We are just trying to deliver oil to different parts of the country," said Biswajit Saha, director for corporate and regulatory affairs at the City Group, a leading oil refiner and importer.
Shafiul Ather Taslim, director of TK Group's finance and operations, said the mill opened on Saturday after Eid.
"After that, it takes 24 hours to set up the production. The supply of oil at the new prices started yesterday … We can't cover all parts of the country in one day. It will take two or three days."
Abdul Hakim, owner of Khwaja Store in Chattogram, has been fined Tk 40,000 by the Directorate of National Consumers Right Protection for illegally stockpiling 1,000 litres of oil.
Shahidul Islam, deputy director of the directorate's Chattogram office, said the operation was carried out, as traders were selling the old stockpiled bottles at new prices.
According to the National Board of Revenue, more than 13.68 lakh tonnes of palm oil and soybean oil worth Tk 16,119.36 crore have been imported through the Chattogram and Mongla ports in the last four months till April.
About 54 thousand tonnes of palm and soybean oil have been waiting to be unloaded at the Chattogram port till yesterday evening, said customs and port officials.