Bring down prices of eggs urgently
It has been months now that the prices of essentials have been soaring, plunging many middle- and low-income families into financial hardship. Although the government has been trying to tackle the effects of food inflation through various measures, there seems to be little control over the prices of some essential food items, such as eggs, chicken, onions and potatoes.
The latest shock has been the prices of eggs and broiler chicken which are the main sources of protein for middle and lower income groups. Just a month ago, a dozen eggs cost Tk 150 – quite high by any measure – but that has now jumped to an unprecedented Tk 170. It is depressing to know that those with limited means are being forced to buy "cracked" eggs because they are a few takas cheaper. Others have just cut down on egg consumption, or stopped buying eggs altogether. Broiler chickens have also become more expensive, making even middle-class families reduce their intake.
Various reasons have been cited to explain such spiralling of food prices. These include an overall increase in global prices because of the war in Ukraine leading to hikes in fuel prices, as well as the depreciation of the Taka making import of food items costlier. Curiously, this year, we have seen how prices of certain essentials have shot up even when global prices of the same commodities have gone down. Meanwhile, poultry farmers have made allegations of a syndicate of large businessmen manipulating the market of eggs and chickens and keeping their prices high. In addition, the ongoing floods have destroyed many poultry farms, causing a shortage which may drive prices further up if no action is taken by the government.
In March, the country's poultry farmers had pleaded to the government to fix the prices of chicken and eggs, saying they were incurring losses even though consumers were paying high prices. We would like to know what action has been taken by the committee that was assigned to devise a strategy to help the livestock ministry set the egg and chicken prices. It is because of the inaction or failure of responsible departments that not just the prices of poultry items, but those of turmeric, garlic and ginger as well as other spices have also gone up.
Often, despite the government setting prices in the kitchen market, the sellers do not adhere to them. Therefore, the government must adopt and implement strict market monitoring policies that will keep prices in check. There are various organisations of the government as well as laws that have been created to keep the prices of essentials under control. The government must activate these organisations and enforce these laws. Most importantly, the authorities must vigorously investigate allegations of manipulating prices of poultry items and clamp down on the syndicates behind them. They must not be allowed to randomly "fix" prices of these commodities.