Syed Nasir Hossain : Demand for dates is highest during Ramadan as compared to normal time. In this opportunity, the price of the product is increased every year. The minimum price of one kg of dates in retail is Tk 200 and the maximum is Tk 1,500. In Ramadan last year, this price was Tk 120 and Tk 1,200. Dabas, Zahidi, Plum and Gola dates are the most sold due to their relatively low prices. Compared to last Ramadan, their prices have increased by about 60 percent.
Importers and traders say that the price of dates has increased this year due to increase in duty and tax rate, appreciation of dollar against taka and complications of credit. They are afraid that if the duty is not reduced, the price may increase in the next fast.
According to the data of Bangladesh Fresh Fruits Importers Association (BFFIA), before the announcement of the budget of the current financial year, the tariff price of dates per ton was $500 to $1,000, but currently the tariff price has increased to $1,000-$2,750 per ton. Customs duty of 25 percent, regulatory duty of 3 percent and VAT of 15 percent have been newly added to this. Traders did not have to pay any revenue in these three sectors before. Besides, advance income tax and advance tax have to be paid at the rate of 5 percent as before. Basically, its impact has been more on the import of dates.
Talking to the traders of different areas of the capital, it is known that the lowest price is sold in the market, or Bengal dates. Per kg is currently being sold at Tk 200. However, during last year’s Ramadan, these dates were sold at Tk 120-130 per kg. Zahidi dates are now being sold at Tk 240-250 per kg. Last year its price was only Tk 150. There are two types of dabas dates available in the market. These dates are being sold at Tk 450-550 depending on the quality. Last year it was Tk 300-340. According to that, the price of three dates – Gala, Zahidi and Dabas – has increased by almost 60 percent. At present plum dates are being sold at Tk 440-540 according to standard. Last year it was sold at Tk 220-430. Accordingly, the price of this variety of dates has also increased by about 50 percent.
Among the dates preferred by the elite are Medjul, Mabrum, Ajwa and Maryam from Saudi Arabia. They are the most expensive in the market. Jumbo Medjul is being sold at Tk 1,200 to Tk 1,400 per kg. Last year it was sold for Tk1,100 to Tk1,200. Common Medjool is being sold at Tk 1,100 to Tk 1,200 per kg. Last year its price went up to Tk1 thousand. Mabrum dates are being sold at Tk 1,100 to Tk 1,500 per kg. Last year it was Tk900 to Tk1 thousand. There are two types of ajwa available in the market. Currently it is being sold for Tk900 to Tk1,200. Last year the price was Tk800 to Tk1 thousand per kg.
Different types of Miriam dates are available in the market. Dates of this variety come from Saudi Arabia, Iran, Tunisia, Algeria and Egypt. Among these, the best variety of Maryam is sold at Tk 900 to Tk 1,100 per kg. Kalmi Maryam is being sold at Tk 700-900. Last Ramadan, these dates were sold for Tk 650-700. Sufri Maryam is currently being sold at Tk 750-800 per kg. Last Ramadan, its price was Tk650. Amber and Safavi dates are being sold at Tk 900-1,200 per kg. Last Ramadan, its price was Tk900. Dates of Sukkari variety are selling at Tk 800-900 per kg, compared to Tk 750 last Ramadan.
The traders of Caravan Bazaar said that the prices started increasing gradually after last year’s Ramadan. Some dates have now more than doubled in price in the space of two years. The price is increasing every month. Retail trader Yusuf told, “Importers or wholesale traders have increased the prices too much. In the last few months, some dates have increased by Tk 200-300 per kg. We bring and sell in small quantities. If they don’t reduce the price, how can we sell at a lower price.’
Importers said that the tariff price of dates has been increased more than twice. As a result of this, the import of dates has increased two-three times this year compared to last year. Although the price of dates in the world market has not increased compared to last year. Also, the transportation cost is also lower than last year. However, due to increased tariffs and difficulties in opening credit due to the dollar crisis, it is having an impact at the retail level.
Sirajul Islam, president of BFFIA told, “We are importing dates from $900 to $1000 per ton, but Chittagong Custom House has set a price of Tk2500 per ton like them without taking this price into consideration. As a result, customs duty, VAT and regulatory duty are also increasing. All in all, the cost of emptying containers has increased. Due to the increase in duty, the price of dates in the country has increased. Therefore, to keep the date market normal during Ramadan, the traders have demanded that the customs price of dates and import duty be set as before.
Last week, in view of the demands of traders, the Ministry of Commerce has sent a letter to the National Board of Revenue (NBR) to reduce the duty on edible oil, sugar and dates ahead of Ramadan. In view of this, NBR chairman Abu Hena Rahmatul Munim told the media, “I have received a proposal from the Ministry of Commerce to reduce the import duty of edible oil, sugar and dates.” NBR is working on it.
A source in the commerce ministry, however, said that a decision on tariff reduction may come today. A senior official of the Import and Domestic Trade Division of the Ministry of Commerce told, “The Ministry of Commerce has sent a letter to NBR regarding the reduction of import duty on oil, sugar and dates.” However, I have not received any information from NBR yet.
The National Directorate of Consumer Rights has warned that strict action will be taken if an artificial crisis is created. The director general of the department AHM Safikuzzaman told, “We have held several meetings regarding the duty reduction. Hope a decision will be made soon. I will monitor how much the traders are importing. If the difference in the selling price is more, action will be taken.
The annual demand of dates in the country is about 90 thousand tons. Of this, there is a demand of about 40-50 thousand tons of dates in Ramadan. Market analysts say that supervision should be increased to control the date market during Ramadan. If not, they think the price will increase.
Consumers Association of Bangladesh (CAB) SM Najer Hossain told, “The price of dates in the market is very high. The country is supposed to have more dates in stock than are needed for Ramadan, but traders are charging higher prices under the pretext of increasing tariffs. Importers should be monitored at what price they are importing. Then it will be seen that the price of dates will come down a lot. In order to keep the market stable during Ramadan, the operation must be conducted now.
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