Govt to reactivate anti-hoarding law
The government is going to reactivate the anti-hoarding law in an effort to control prices of essential commodities, Food and Disaster Management Minister Abdur Razzaque has said.
"Although it's a free market economy, we think the government should have some tools to keep at a tolerable level the prices of essential commodities that affect the larger population," he told reporters emerging from a meeting at the ministry.
The issue will be finalised in consultation with the stakeholders and experts, said Razzaque, who chaired the meeting.
The first of its kind, the meeting was also attended by officials from the ministries of agriculture, food, commerce, finance, home, intelligence agencies and representatives from rice millers.
According to the East Bengal (Food Stuff) Price Control and Anti-Hoarding Order 1953, the essential commodities include rice, wheat, refined sugar, edible oil, lentils, onion, powdered milk and baby milk.
The anti-hoarding order and Essential Commodity Act 1956 were in force even after the country's independence, but with the emergence of the free market economy concept, the government deactivated them in 1991, food ministry officials said.
Deactivation of the laws allowed importers and traders to stockpile commodities, often creating artificial crisis in the market and increasing prices beyond commoner's reach.
During 2007-08, when there was a food shortage worldwide that resulted in sharp rise of food prices, the then caretaker government decided to reactivate the anti-hoarding act, but the move eventually died down.
The present government has revived the initiative considering the volatility of food prices in the recent times.
According to the East Bengal (Food Stuff) Price Control and Anti-Hoarding Order 1953, importers could hoard highest 20,000 tonnes of rice or wheat for 120 days.
The food ministry proposed that the time is reduced to 90 days.
The order allowed wholesalers to stockpile highest 5,000 tonnes of wheat or rice for 45 days. The food ministry proposed the amount to be 2,000 tonnes for 45 days, meeting sources said.
At retailers' level, the order says, 50 tonnes of rice or wheat could be stockpiled for 30 days.
Participants at the meeting, however, said the ways to implement the anti-hoarding law should be given due importance before reactivating it, a food ministry official said.