Commodity Price Spiral: ‘Don’t exploit the situation’
The country's apex trade body yesterday came down hard on traders of daily commodities for the abnormal price spiral in recent weeks.
"Why do you have to make so much profit? Don't exploit the situation," Md. Jashim Uddin, president of the Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry, told a gathering of commodities traders.
With the skyrocketing prices of essential commodities like onion, vegetables, rice, edible oil and sugar, the FBCCI summoned the traders to its headquarters in Dhaka to take stock of the situation, which has seen large swathes of the population go hungry in recent weeks.
However, the price spiral of onion was the main topic of the discussion held at the FBCCI headquarters in the capital, which was attended by onion importers, traders, stockists, leaders of different kitchen markets and wholesalers.
While the importers and wholesalers of onion were trying to pin the blame of the price hike on disruptive weather in India, Uddin rather quizzed them how the price of key cooking ingredient came down by Tk 15 per kilogram right after the import duty was withdrawn.
Before the duty was withdrawn, each kg of onion sold between Tk 80 and Tk 85. But soon after the 5 percent import duty was withdrawn on Thursday, the prices came down to Tk 60 to Tk 65.
Jashim Uddin said it takes at least four to five days to bring onion through the land port from India.
"How was it possible to sell the onions at Tk 15 per kg less -- immediately?"
The sudden price fall of onion indicates that there was some secret pact among the onion traders and the low production and rainfall in major onion producing states of India, the main source of onion for Bangladesh, was not the reason behind the price spiral in the first place, he said.
He went on to ask why there was a difference of Tk 10 per kg in the price of onion at the wholesale level in the same market in Dhaka.
"As businessmen, we will make a profit but not to such an extent that you bring disgrace and raise suspicion against the entire community. Of course, you can do business, but don't do it by putting consumers in difficulty," he said.
Hazi Mohammad Mazed, vice-president of Shyambazar Krishi Ponno Arat Bonik Samity, said the price of onion was not lowered immediately after the withdrawal of the duty.
Some 80 onion importers at Shyambazar are selling the root vegetable at market price, he said.
The prices of onion went up in the market due to supply and production disruption of the widely consumed vegetable in India, said Hazi Shamsul Alam Baten, general secretary of Shyambazar Krishi Ponno Arat Malik Babosayee Samity, and Helal Uddin, a former FBCCI vice-president.
Businessmen at the meeting also blamed higher electricity costs, higher trade licence fees and toll collection by a section of police force on the highways for price hike of onion in the local markets.
The businessmen will turn to the FBCCI for help if the government takes actions against those who are making an unusual profit by exploiting the situation, Jasim Uddin said.
"The FBCCI will not extend its helping hands to those businessmen. So, make a reasonable profit."
Jashim Uddin said he will activate all the standing committees of the FBCCI within the next week for closely monitoring the prices of basic commodities in the domestic markets.
Meanwhile, at an event of the Dhaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Commerce Minister Tipu Munshi said there is a 20 percent deficit in onion supply every year.
About 90 percent of the deficit is met with imports from India and fill it, he said.
"It is only when India raises the prices that it has an impact on our country," Munshi added.