Daily essentials of the fasting month are being sold at higher prices in retail markets although there is no shortage in stocks of products having high demand during Ramadan.
Prices of oil, sugar, date, gram pulses and several other products are higher in the capital's kitchen markets than those fixed by the government.
Analysing local production, import situation and stockpiling conditions, government agencies find no shortage in stock of products that have increased demand during Ramadan. The supply chain is also normal. In this situation, they find no reason to increase prices.
However, during visits at some kitchen markets in the capital, it was found that although bottled soybean oil is being sold at government-fixed price, but retailers are taking extra money than the government-fixed price in case of non-bottled soybean oil which is being sold at Tk122-125 per litre. But the government fixed the price at Tk117.
It is learned that against the demand of 20 lakh tonnes of edible oil for the whole year, 16.23 lakh tonnes of oil has been imported in the last eight months from July to February. The demand for this product is 2 to 2.5 lakh tonnes during Ramadan.
In contrast to the demand of 18 lakh tonnes of sugar throughout the year, there is a demand of about two lakh during Ramadan alone. The country has imported about 13 lakh tonnes of sugar till July-February of the current financial year. Of this, the government agency Sugar and Food Industries Corporation has 40,000 tonnes. Although there is no problem in the supply chain, the product is being sold at a slightly higher price.
Non-pack sugar is being sold at Tk70-72 per kg in retail markets. At some markets, though, it is being sold at Tk68 also.
However, according to the Department of Agriculture Marketing and the Sugar and Food Industries Corporation, the maximum rational value of sugar is Tk67-68. No one is supposed to sell sugar at a higher price.
Karwanbazar edible oil and sugar wholesaler Md Sagir told The Business Standard that at the wholesale level, the prices fixed by the government are being adhered to. If retailers take extra money the responsibility is not of the wholesaler. In this case, the government has to monitor retail markets.
It is known that the import price of gram is Tk55 and the retail price is supposed to be Tk63-67 at best, but it is being sold at Tk70-80.
Although the total annual demand of gram is 2.10 lakh tonnes, a large part of it (about 80,000 tonnes) is used during Ramadan. Due to this, the price of the product also increases every year before Ramadan. This time too it was no exception.
One of the popular dishes in Ramadan is peyaju. Lentils are used to make it. As a result, there is a demand of about 60,000 tonnes of lentils during Ramadan, while annual demand of the product is 500,000 tonnes.
Analysing the import data, the Department of Agriculture Marketing says that the import price of large and small grains of lentil pulses respectively is Tk41 and Tk71 per kg. So, those are supposed to be sold in the retail market at a maximum of Tk69 and Tk103.
However, in the retail market, large grain lentils are being sold at Tk75-80 per kg and small grain lentils at Tk110-120.
As of March of the current financial year, 1.83 lakh tonnes of lentils have been imported and about 2.5 lakh tonnes of pulses have been produced locally.
Shafi Mahmud, a wholesaler of pulses and gram in Chawkbazar, told TBS that the market situation was sluggish. Sales are low, stocks are high. In this situation, there is no opportunity to increase the price.
The price of onion in the country is stable only because the local production is good. The product is being sold within Tk40.
Price of date increased so much that it is very difficult to find out the reason. The cost of importing ordinary quality dates is Tk43 and the price of medium quality dates is Tk102, but the retail price of ordinary quality date is Tk250-Tk300, whereas its price in no way is supposed to be more than Tk100.
Medium quality dates are being sold at a maximum price of Tk700 which is supposed to be sold at Tk200-250. However, 62,000 tonnes of dates have been imported till this March. Of this, only 50,000 tonnes have been imported targeting Ramadan.
After collecting and analysing data from various organisations including the ministry of commerce, tariff commission, Bangladesh Bank; the Department of Agricultural Marketing has given a list of the highest reasonable retail prices of some products for Ramadan.
Director General of the Department of Agricultural Marketing Mohammad Yusuf said, "We have published reasonable retail prices after considering the import, production and market conditions of several products. Traders have no scope to sell products at higher prices. They will be brought under the law if they are found taking extra price during market monitoring."
According to the department, at least 30 mobile courts will be set up in Dhaka by various agencies including the Consumer Department, Ministry of Commerce and Department of Agricultural Marketing, to monitor retail market prices based on the prices fixed by the government.
Asked about the overall situation, Consumers Association of Bangladesh President Golam Rahman said, "We have to create an example of strict monitoring and punishment. Otherwise, the tendency of traders to over-profit will not decrease."