Syed Nasir Hossain : Even though Ramadan, the month of moderation, is one and a half months away, the black shadow of unscrupulous businessmen has started falling in the market. The old cycle of cutting the pockets of the buyer is moving again. Chickpeas, edible oil, sugar, anchor dal, dates and onions are in demand several times during Ramadan. For this reason, the “vulture eyes” of unscrupulous traders are on these products. Nothing exceptional happened this time either. Although there is no shortage in supply, they have already raised the prices of these products in various ways.
Retail from Miller – Traders of all levels have ‘warmed their pockets’, but buyers have wet eyes due to price cuts. Low-income people are hit the hardest when commodity prices rise. Many of them lost the rhythm of enjoying life while pulling the expenses of the family at high prices.
Every year, the government provides policy support to import these products. Sometimes LC is opened with zero margin, sometimes traders get duty exemption. At the same time, various initiatives were taken to control the market from the Ministry of Commerce. There will be no disruption in the supply of products, the prices will also be under control – the traders also promised. In the end they forgot that promise. The government’s initiative also failed. As a result, consumers do not get any benefit from the hyped initiative.
As always, the complaints of retailers and small traders are aimed at importers and wholesalers. Again, among these two classes of traders, the wholesalers complain about the millers increasing the prices at the millgate or reducing the supply of goods. On the other hand, the Millers and the importers have the excuse of LC complications, dollar crisis, rising prices in the world market or lame arguments of increasing production costs.
According to TCB data, the price of sugar has increased by about 24 percent, dates by 12 percent, gram by 12 percent, palm oil by 6 percent and onion by 161 percent in a year.
According to Khandkar Golam Moazzem, research director of private research organization CPD, close monitoring is needed at the import level to control the market. He said, the increase in dollar rate has some effect. However, it is necessary to increase the monitoring of the rate at which the importers are importing products, the amount of stock compared to the demand. He said that increasing the supply to the market by re-importing may be a bit of a problem in the remaining time of fasting. But the products that are now stocked, there needs to be an initiative to at least keep their supply normal. Apart from this, considering the situation, consumers should also think of alternatives. For example, since the price of dates is high, it is possible to meet the demand of local fruits.
Heat in chickpea market
According to the information of the Ministry of Commerce, there is a demand of more than one and a half lakh tons of chickpeas annually. About 200,000 tons are imported every year. Of this, there is a demand of about one lakh tons in Ramadan alone. Local production of gram is very less. As a result, the demand of the product has to be imported.
Dates and chickpeas have seen the highest price increase among fasting products. It was found that chickpeas and chickpea pulses are being sold for Tk 110 to Tk 120 per kg in Tejkunipara, Karwan Bazar and Malibagh Bazar of the capital on Thursday.
Not just chickpeas; The prices of other pulses which are required during fasting are also increased. Anchor dal is being sold at Tk 75 to Tk 80, Khesari dal at Tk 110 to Tk 120 per kg. Before the election, chickpeas could be bought at Tk 85 to Tk 90, anchor dal at Tk 65 to Tk 70 and khesari dal at Tk 90 to Tk 100.
Shafi Mahmud, president of Bangladesh Dal Traders Association, said that chickpeas were mostly imported from Australia. Now importing from India. Due to increase in dollar price, the import cost per kg fell from Tk 92 to Tk 96 depending on the standard. Apart from that, Bangladesh Bank has made it easy to open LC but that facility has not been available so far. Because, if there are no dollars in the bank, how to open LC!
Price of dates is unbelievable
Dates will suffer more during fasting. In the market now, to get dates for less than Tk 400, the buyer has to travel from one shop to another shop. It was seen in the retail market yesterday that Mariam date ranges from Tk 900 to Tk 1,400 per kg and Azhwar Tk 700 to Tk 1,300 per kg. Among the low prices, plum dates and dates are Tk 350 to Tk 400 per kg. All other varieties of dates are also being sold at sky-high prices. But last year these dates were sold at a lower price of at least Tk 200 to Tk 300 per kg, said the date sellers themselves.
Importers claim that dates are taxed like luxury goods. The import cost of dates has increased several times in the last one year. This is due to the appreciation of the dollar and high tariffs. The demand of dates is about one lakh tons every year. Half of it, i.e. 50 thousand tons, is needed in Ramadan. Allegedly, traders take the opportunity to increase this demand.
Bairat Mia, managing director of Royal Fresh Fruits, said that last year, a container (26 lakh tons) of Ajwa and Mariam varieties of dates from Dubai and Saudi Arabia was imported for Tk 3 lakh to Tk4 lakh. Now the cost of importing these dates from Dubai is more than Tk40 lakh and the cost of importing dates from Saudi Arabia is about Tk70 lakh.
Mohammad Kamal, senior vice president of Bangladesh Fresh Fruits Importers Association, said last year’s import of dates was 5 percent AIT per kg. Now 58 percent duty, 15 percent VAT and 5 percent AIT have to be paid. Not only this, a separate duty has been levied on good quality dates. He said, the higher the value and import price of dates, the higher the customs cost. Saudi Arabia’s good quality Ajwa, Megjul, Magrum, Mesjul, Maryam date palm now has to pay Tk 280 per kg. Along with this, there are other costs. If you add the duty with the cost of import, the price is twice as much as last year. Apart from this, low-income people have to pay a duty of Tk162 on the dates they buy. So how much money will the traders sell these dates?
Onions are also grated
There are many discussions about onions. Indian onion import door closed. Besides, at this time of the year, onions from different countries including Myanmar and Turkey are supposed to be in the market with new onions. However, due to dollar crisis, onion can’t be imported, traders said. Now onion is supposed to be between Tk 25 to Tk 30, but it is being sold at Tk 90 to Tk 95.
Darkness of sugar market
The annual demand of sugar in the country is about 2 million tons. Although importers claim, the demand is at least 24 to 25 lakh tonnes. Against this huge demand, the production in the last financial year was about 22 thousand tons. Usually, an average of one and a half lakh tons of sugar is required per month. However, this demand doubles during Ramadan. More than 300,000 tons are needed at this time. Due to nominal production, the entire demand has to be met by imports. Due to import dependence, the traders also increase the prices at will due to the increase in the world market and the dollar. As a result, the volatility of the sugar market, which has been going on for two years, is still not over. In the retail market of Dhaka yesterday, open sugar was sold at Tk 145 and packed sugar at Tk 150 per kg; Which is Tk10 to Tk15 higher than the rate set by the government.
Price of open soybeans, palm oil also increased
There is also instability in the edible oil market. A month and a half ago, without any announcement, the refining companies increased the price of soybean oil by four rupees per liter. Soybean bottled at 173 per liter and five liter bottle at Tk840. The prices of soybeans and palm oil, which have been open for two weeks, are also higher. Soybean is being sold at Tk160 to Tk165 per liter and palm oil is selling at Tk125 to Tk130 per litre.
Edible oil is also import dependent. The country imports about 2 million tons of refined and unrefined oil annually. Among them, the demand of edible oil during fasting is three and a half lakh tons.
NBR promises to reduce duty
Businessmen have been demanding a reduction in import duty on daily commodities for a long time. In view of this, the Ministry of Commerce wrote to the National Board of Revenue (NBR) on Monday to reduce import duty on edible oil, sugar and dates. In this context, NBR chairman Abu Hena Rahmatul Munim said in response to the questions of the journalists, work is going on to reduce the import duty and tax on some products in view of Ramadan. However, he did not clarify that the duty will be reduced on any product.
Imports are slightly less
When asked about the import of daily commodities, Bangladesh Bank Executive Director and Spokesperson Majbaul Haque said, compared to the same period last year, the import of daily commodities has increased by 10 to 15 percent this year.
However, according to the report of Bangladesh Bank, the import of edible oil has decreased by 39.9 percent during the same period of the current fiscal year compared to July-November period of the last financial year. Similarly, import of food pulses decreased by 46 percent, wheat import decreased by 15.6 percent. However, sugar import has increased by 86.7 percent during this period.
In this regard, Vice President of Consumers Association of Bangladesh (CAB) SM Najer Hossain said that there is a dollar crisis. However, the way traders hold consumers hostage and increase the price of products before fasting is unusual. Although the government repeatedly talks about strict control, it is not actually being implemented. Monitoring of importers’ import rates, duty costs and stock levels in factories will reveal details of product price manipulation. Although this demand has been raised repeatedly, it has not been given a big hand.
Special Correspondent: President of the Bangladesh Insurance Forum (BIF), BM Yusuf Ali, ha…