The government plans an effective monitoring of the supply chain of everyday essentials to prevent any abnormal hike in their prices.
To this end, the Bangladesh Trade and Tariff Commission recently sent letters to all deputy commissioners (DCs) in the country, asking them to form committees in their districts under their chairmanship.
Several deputy commissioners told The Business Standard these committees would work to make sure that immediate action could be taken if there was a crisis in the stock and supply of essential commodities in any district.
The authorities have embarked on this initiative against a backdrop of prices of essential commodities such as edible oil, sugar and onions going up unjustifiably now and again in the country. Due to the dependence on import of these products, fluctuations in their prices in the international market leave a rapid impact on the local market, which often goes beyond the control of the government.
Munshi Shahabuddin, chairman of the Bangladesh Trade and Tariff Commission, told The Business Standard traders would not be able to control the market if the committees had all the information in hand.
"If the committees are functional, the government will always be updated on the stock and supply situation and will be able to take necessary action based on this information," he explained.
Even though these committees were supposed to be formed and start functioning immediately after the issuance of the Essential Commodities Distribution and Distributor Recruitment Order, 2011, by the Ministry of Commerce, initiatives are being taken to implement the order after nine years.
According to the letter of the Tariff Commission, the committees will prepare assessment reports after observing the collection, stock, supply, sale and price situation of essential commodities collected by distributors.
Distributors will send reports every month to the Tariff Commission's monitoring cell on how much of the products they have been selling. If there is a problem or shortage of supply and storage of goods in an upazila, the cell will be able to give instructions on the inter-upazila transfer of goods and take decisions on important issues in the context of the local situation to increase the availability of goods.
The Tariff Commission has also ordered the formation of a committee at every upazila under the chairmanship of the local upazila nirbahi officer (UNO).
The instructions on the formation of the district level and upazila level committees have been issued as per Articles 15 and 17 of the Essential Commodities Distribution and Distributor Recruitment Order, respectively. The activities of these committees will be monitored centrally by a national committee headed by the commerce secretary.
According to people concerned, prices of some essential products are increasing in the local market due to the increase in their prices in the international market. However, if for some reasons prices of goods in the international market rise too much or domestic production is disrupted or an artificial crisis of goods is created in the market and if it cannot be dealt with properly, the market becomes unstable and the situation gets out of control.
In preparation for dealing with such situations, round-the-clock surveillance is being stepped up to speed up the activities of the national, district and upazila level commodities distribution monitoring committees. As the month of Ramadan is approaching, initiatives have been taken to form the committee and launch its activities.
The Prime Minister's Office recently sent a letter to the commerce ministry in the wake of instability in the onion, edible oil and rice markets, asking the ministry, field administration and law enforcement agencies to be especially vigilant so that no quarter could create unrest over the price situation of essential commodities.
In this context, the commerce ministry asked the Tariff Commission to take effective steps to strengthen monitoring over the consumer goods market across the country.
It is to be noted that due to a price hike in the international market, the price of edible oil is increasing fast in the domestic market. Consumers have to buy a litre of soybean oil at Tk140 – the highest rate in about nine years.
According to a market analysis by the Trading Corporation of Bangladesh (TCB), the price of loose soybean oil has gone up by about 24% and the price of a one-liter bottled soybean oil has surged by 26.58% in a month.
The price of sugar also has gone up. This commodity is now being sold at a maximum price of Tk78 a kg, up from Tk70 a month ago.
Asked about the delay in taking initiatives to form the monitoring committees, AHM Safiquzzaman, additional secretary at the Import and Internal Trade (IIT) Division under the Ministry of Commerce, told The Business Standard, "There were some problems for which the committees could not be formed yet. But now we will launch various initiatives apart from forming the committees to bring about stability in the market system."
Meanwhile, people concerned said the prices of some consumer goods turned volatile with the advent of Ramadan every year. A big reason for this is the irregularities in issuing delivery order (DO) slips. "There are many seasonal traders across the country, who obtain delivery orders but do not collect goods with them from the mills before Ramadan. They sell the slips to other traders at increased prices. The prices of the essential commodities go up in this way as well."
However, in the Essential Commodities Distribution and Distributor Recruitment Order, 2011, the provision of supply order (SO) has been introduced by abolishing the DO practice, making it mandatory to take delivery of products within 15 days. However, that slip trade has not stopped yet. These committees will strengthen monitoring and will put a stop to the unlawful sale of DO slips. ***