Actions need to be taken against those who are actually hoarding essentials and thus creating an artificial crisis of them in the market, but small traders should not be harassed during drives to control market manipulation, said business leaders.
Small shopkeepers are being harassed by campaigns of the Directorate of National Consumer Rights Protection, they alleged, taking part in two views-exchange meetings on stockpiling, imports, supply situation, and the price of essential commodities, at Karwan Bazar and New Market on Thursday.
The meetings were organised by the Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FBCCI) to control the ongoing volatility in commodity prices.
Babul Mia, president of the Karwan Bazar Kitchen Market Owners' Association, said, "Shopkeepers are in a state of panic. The Consumers Rights Protection agency is imposing fines outside the law. Traders should be warned first and then they should be fined. A shopkeeper who does not have products worth Tk2 lkh is being fined Tk1 lakh."
Observing that there would be no crisis if the supply of oil was going right, he said, "Mill owners need to keep the supply of edible oil right. Products must be delivered within seven days of placing the order. Then there will be no shortage in the market."
Lokman Hossain, secretary of the Kawran Bazar Kitchen Market Association, said, "Those who are in the monitoring team have to work efficiently and sincerely. Some of them are fining the traders only to get appreciation on social media. If this continues, traders will be afraid to sell products which will create an even greater crisis."
Abu Motaleb, director of FBCCI, said: "We ourselves did not even know about the anti-hoarding law a few months ago. Our business associations did not know that and now FBCCI is informing traders about this law, while traders are being harassed by market watchdogs for not knowing this!"
Speaking as the chief guest, Mostafa Azad Chowdhury Babu, convener of FBCCI's market monitoring committee, said, "This situation has been created by a few (5%) hoarders, although most traders in the market are honest. We have to create monitoring cells in each market which will meet twice a week."
"We ourselves have to monitor the market and abandon the practice of increasing product prices whenever prices rise in the world market," he added.
He demanded that the president and general secretary of the market committee should be informed before any law enforcement agency conducts mobile court drives in any market.