Fresh strain on consumers

Sugar, soybean oil get pricier

Consumers suffered a fresh blow yesterday as commodity processors raised the prices of  edible oil and sugar by up to Tk 13 per kg.

For the poor and low-income families, there was more bad news -- the food ministry increased the prices of wheat flour by Tk 6 or 33 percent to Tk 24 a kg for open market sales (OMS), reducing their access to the essential.

The processors increased the price of soybean oil by Tk 12 a litre, or around 7 percent, and that of sugar by Tk 13 a kg, or nearly 14 percent, citing high import costs due to the devaluation of the taka against the US dollar.

Many consumers expressed their anger and frustration at the latest price hike, saying their purchasing capacity has already shrunk due to high inflation.

"The prices of all products are going up every day, but no one has any idea what will happen to the people. The salaries of limited-income people are not rising," said Laboni Rani, an employee of Chattogram City Corporation.

In August, inflation hit a 10-year high of 9.52 percent, which fell to 8.9 percent in October, according to Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics, indicating consistent pressure on the consumers' wallets.

Now, a litre of bottled soybean oil will cost Tk 190, up from Tk 178. A consumer has to pay Tk 925 for a five-litre container, which was Tk 880.

Similarly, loose soybean oil prices rose to Tk 172 from Tk 160 a litre.

The new prices took effect yesterday, said Biswajit Saha, director (corporate and regulatory affairs) of City Group, one of the leading commodity importers and processors.

The retail price of packaged sugar has been hiked to Tk 108 per kg from Tk 95.

Contacted over the phone, Senior Commerce Secretary Tapan Kanti Ghosh said the prices of edible oil and sugar were hiked as per the recommendations by Bangladesh Trade and Tariff Commission (BTTC).

The rates proposed by the refiners were vetted by the BTTC, and the commerce ministry approved those, he mentioned.

On November 1, the refiners submitted the application to the ministry for raising the prices, Ghosh added.

Anamul Haque, who works at a non-governmental organisation in Chattogram, said, "The prices of all essentials have been raised, citing soaring rates of US dollar and supply shortage.

"Shopkeepers are selling oil at the new price even though the bottles carry the old price tag. There is no one to see this."

He said the price of packaged sugar rose to Tk 108, but in reality, packaged sugar was not available in the market over the last one month. Loose sugar is being sold for Tk 115-120 a kg for the last two weeks.

Many shops in the capital and elsewhere have run out of the packaged sweetener due to reduced supply from refiners that have been hit by gas shortage.

Talking to this newspaper, Md Abdur Razzak, owner of Amanat Trading at Khatunganj wholesale market, said, "Though the price of soybean oil has been increased in the retail market today, the mill owners had already raised it by Tk 300 per maund a week ago.

"Loose soybean oil is being sold in the wholesale market for Tk 7,000-Tk 7,050 per maund (40.9 litres), which was Tk 6,700 earlier."

Asked, Taslim Shahriar, senior assistant general manager at Meghna Group of Industries, said, "The prices of both the commodities have been increased due to a strong dollar and rising import costs. There was no option but to raise the product prices to keep supply stable in the market."

The soybean oil price had gone up to $1,887 a tonne in April-June this year in the international market. It declined to $1,576 per tonne in October, according to World Bank Commodities Price Data

Sugar price was $.43 per kg in the global market in April-June, which dropped to $.39 in October. 

SM Nazar Hossain, vice president of the Consumers' Association Bangladesh, said, "There is no correlation between the prices of essentials in the domestic market and the international market. Anyone can increase the prices at will."

There seems to be no effort from the authorities to keep the essentials' prices within the reach of the common people, he added.


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