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Bangladesh - February 28, 2023

Risk of manipulation in Ramadan market

Mahfuz Emran: The common people are worried as Ramadan is coming. I don’t have time for a month. Therefore, there is no end to the worries of consumers in front of Ramadan. Even before fasting comes, the prices of all the daily commodities skyrocket.
Prices of many products including rice, dal, fish, meat have gone up. Out of reach of common people. However, the government is claiming that there will be no shortage of six essential products during fasting. Some products are already imported and entering the market. Rest of the products are on the way. In addition, this time the amount of import is more than last time. Meanwhile, many experts say otherwise. They feel that every time such optimism is expressed by the government. But when fasting begins, a different picture is seen.
Currently, due to the effect of the Russia-Ukraine war, there is a global recession. It is alleged that many traders could not open LCs on time due to dollar crunch especially with high value of dollar.
In such a situation, they fear, due to the manipulation of traders, some products including oil, sugar and chickpeas may lead to artificial crisis. In that case mobile courts are conducted but the influential always remain out of touch.
Such fears of experts have been indicated in the comments of AHM Safikuzzaman, Director General of National Consumer Rights Protection Directorate, told “We are all working together to control the market, including the Ministry of Commerce. But its result is not available. There is no shortage of products here. Only deficit management.
Meanwhile, Commerce Secretary (Senior) Tapan Kanti Ghosh said that Ramadan has sufficient stock of products. There is no danger of crisis. But the free market economy also has a rule.
According to the concerned, every year without any excuse, when the fast comes, a class of businessmen start various kinds of mischief around the market. This time several crises around Ramadan market are
shaking together. As a result, a kind of instability is working within the government. Although the government has already announced to take a strict stand to deal with the situation. Several intelligence agencies have been given the responsibility of monitoring. Besides, traders’ organizations and the Ministry of Commerce have decided to monitor jointly.
On the other hand, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has called some major refineries of consumer goods and held a meeting with them. He ordered to maintain the supply of goods in the fasting market.
Besides, the Bangladesh Competition Commission and the National Consumer Rights Protection Directorate issued a warning message to the leaders of retail and wholesale market business organizations, mill owners, importers and wholesale traders.
A clear message has also been given to retail and wholesale market trader association leaders. It has been said that the relevant market committee will be dissolved if price manipulation is detected.
Sources from the Ministry of Commerce said that seven lakh 33 thousand 574 metric tons of sugar was imported into the country in six months from July-December 2022. In the same period of 2021, nine lakh 41 thousand 519 tons were imported.
During this period sugar import decreased by 7 lakh 7 thousand tons. Meanwhile, the sugar market is hot before fasting. However, to bring the market under control, the National Board of Revenue has reduced the import duty by 5 percent on Monday.
Besides, the import duty of Tk 3000 per tonne on unrefined sugar and Tk 6000 on refined sugar was withdrawn. A senior official of the sugar producing company said that there is a shortage of sugar due to insufficient supply of gas and less import in the factory.
According to the Central Bank, 10 lakh 49 thousand 183 metric tons of soybean oil was imported between July and December. In the same period of the previous year, the amount of import was 8 lakh 87 thousand 488 tons.
At this time, the import is more than 1 lakh 61 thousand 695 tons. In July-December 2022, 6 lakh 4 thousand 60 metric tons of palm oil was imported and 5 lakh 36 thousand 803 metric tons were imported in the same period of 2021.
During this period, the import increased by 67 thousand 257 tons. In addition, about 1 lakh 89 thousand tons of lentils have been imported in the last six months. In the same period last year, 1 lakh 9 thousand 201 tons were imported. Comparatively 89 thousand 754 tons of pulses have been imported more. And in the last six months (July-December), the amount of chickpea import was 53 thousand 476 tons. 67 thousand 640 tons in six months before this.
However, chickpea import decreased by 14 thousand 164 tons. Besides, 3 lakh 76 thousand 663 tons of onions were imported in July-December 2022 and 3 lakh 39 thousand 303 tons were imported in the same period of the previous year. In this case, the import is more 37 thousand 370 tons.
Tapan Kanti Ghoshsaid that the government does not want to interfere easily with businessmen. As long as the traders are making as much profit as they need to make, there is no need for intervention. But it will also be seen whether the competition is being lost in the market.
Consumers Association of Bangladesh (CAB) president Golam Rahman said that the government should identify the people who are really responsible for the product crisis and take action. No black hand can be indulged. The government has to play the role of strong referee here.
According to the Ministry of Commerce, there is a demand of about 3 lakh metric tons of edible oil, 3 lakh metric tons of sugar, 1 lakh metric tons of gram, about 50 thousand tons of dates, about 1 lakh metric tons of lentils and 4 lakh tons of onions.
It is being claimed from the relevant organizations including the Ministry of Commerce that there has been sufficient import compared to the demand of the fasting month. But at the field level, the price of many products is high now. There are also shortages of many products. Especially the sugar crisis is not going away. In this case, retailers say-artificial crisis is created from millgate and wholesale market. There will be no problem in the fasting market if the surveillance is kept right there.
Director General of National Consumer Rights Protection Directorate AHM Safikuzzaman told that strict measures will be taken to control the market, the market committee will be abolished before the price manipulation in the market during Ramadan. He thinks that if the market committee plays its proper role, no trader in the respective market will have the courage to manipulate the price.
TCB initiative: TCB has finalized a program to sell products at low prices in three phases to one crore low-income people before and during the upcoming fast. Out of this, the first phase from March 5-20, the second phase from March 15-31 and the last phase from April 1-15 have been taken to supply fasting products and other products.

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