Traders playing with essential Ramadan products
Price hiked through systematic manipulation
Ibrahim Khalil Jewel: When Ramadan comes, the demand for some products increases. Prices of commodities such as dates, gram, sugar, oil and onions became unbearable. This time was no exception. Unscrupulous traders have increased the prices of these products.
Market participants say that the prices of the products which are at the peak of demand during Ramadan have been increased several times due to various reasons including dollar crisis, and stoppage of product imports. They have also adopted such a strategy that the prices may increase further before Ramadan. Meanwhile, low-income people are struggling to bear the burden of increased prices. This is the situation now, what will happen in Ramadan – they are disoriented.
The government says that the country currently has more than what is needed for the entire month of Ramadan. Not only that, Bangladesh Bank has also given special facility to do LC for import of Roja products.
So why are the prices of these products increasing? One side of the traders says that the price is being increased through systematic manipulation. As part of the manipulation, they say the cost of importing goods has increased, hence the price is higher. Another party says that it is not possible to open LC due to dollar crisis. There is a shortage of products due to not being able to import on time, so the prices are increasing.
On the other hand, buyers complain that the price of dates has doubled compared to last year. A few days ago, the price of chickpeas increased by Tk 10 to Tk 15 per kg. The price of this product is being increased again. Already the price of sugar has been increased by Tk 10 to Tk 15 per kg. Initiatives have been taken to increase again. After soybean oil, now the price of palm oil is also being increased. Not only that, some businessmen are planning to ‘manipulate’ the onion price which is under control.
Consumer Association of Bangladesh (CAB), a non-governmental organization working on consumer rights, considers these complaints of buyers to be true. They urged the government to take necessary steps to ensure that consumers are protected during Ramadan.
CAB vice-president SM Nazer Hossain said traders have deliberately increased the prices of Ramadan goods. In the middle of Ramadan, you will see their prices decreasing. He said, “Every year, the traders used to play a kind of game on the price of Ramadan products. They have started the same game this time too.
“There are enough imports of dates, chickpeas, oil and sugar, stocks are also abundant. Still, the price is being increased on various pretexts. Government should take action against those who are doing manipulation. Strengthening supervision over them. Otherwise, the market will not stabilize before Ramadan.
It has been seen that the price of dates has increased from Tk 100 to Tk 500 per kg compared to last year. Which is 48 percent more than last year. The price of sugar has increased by Tk 30 to Tk 40 per kg. The price of chickpeas has increased from Tk 10 to Tk 20. The price of oil increased by 10 to 15 taka. However, there is relief in the onion market.
That is, on the occasion of Ramadan, the prices of most products have increased by 5 to 48 percent compared to last year. The government’s market monitoring organization Trading Corporation of Bangladesh (TCB) report also showed the same picture.
Traders’ ‘manipulation’ behind price increase
The prices are being increased through manipulation – the complaints of retailers. When asked to know, BakiBillah, a trader a Karwan Bazaar, told that it is an “open secret” to raise prices by creating an artificial shortage of products before fasting.
“Before increasing the price of oil and sugar, the traders who import these products stopped the supply. They artificially created a crisis and increased the price and then sold it. The question of this retail trader is, “Why are the companies still not providing enough sugar even after raising the price of sugar in two rounds?”
Minhajul Islam, who came to Karwan Bazar to break the fast, said, “Be it oil-sugar or date-chickpea – the price of everything has doubled.” When I come to market, I feel like I have come to market in America or Singapore.
I don’t know how to get through the month of fasting. I bought eight thousand taka, half is still left. But last year I did a whole month’s market with this money. The family of four is going well.
Retail traders claim that they have to buy at higher prices, due to which they have to sell their products at higher prices. In this context, importers and wholesale traders say that the demand for dates, chickpeas, sugar, oil and onions increases two to three times during the month of Ramadan compared to normal times. But due to dollar crisis they are not able to import these products. Those who bring, they bring at a higher price. They are forced to raise their prices.
Arifur Rahman came to buy chickpeas and sugar at the Segunbagicha raw market in the capital. He said, “Fasting is coming, so I came to buy some things. I am surprised to hear the price.”
Nazmul Huda, the owner of Hizbullah Store, a grocery store in Madhya Badda, said that the prices of all the other products except onion and potato have increased in the last few days in view of Shab-e-Barat and fasting. As the reason, he said, ‘For the last three-four months, sugar is being played with. Our stores no longer carry packaged sugar. The price of sugar has been increased by Tk 10 to Tk 15 per kg in a month. In the last three-four days, the price of sugar has increased by Tk 50 to Tk 100 per bag. I am buying at a higher price, so I have to sell at a higher price.
The price of open palm oil has increased by Tk 400 to Tk 500 per drum (185 litres). The price of soybean oil has increased by Tk 200. Besides, the price of gram has increased by five to seven taka per kg.
Shafi Mahmud, President of Chickpea Importer and Pulse Traders Association, said, “The dollar crisis occurred due to the Ukraine-Russia war. As a result, it was not possible to import chickpeas from other countries including Australia as the LC could not be opened. Still the price of other products.
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