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Food inflation must be held in check

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18th-May-2017       
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MEDIA reports on Wednesday said food inflation almost doubled in March, spurred by rising prices of essentials including rice affecting the poor and fixed-income groups in cities and rural areas. The single rice item is now taking away the bigger part of a family budget as the prices are spiraling in post flood situation.

In city market places the impact is highly visible as prices of rice soared between Tk 5 to Tk 8 on per Kg rice in recent weeks. The situation is poised to further aggravate, as the holy month of Ramzan is only a week away when prices of most kitchen items have registered sharp rise at all places. It must be held in check.

Report said in March, food inflation stood at 6.89 percent, up from 3.89 percent from a year earlier and 6.84 percent from February, according to data released by the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS) on Tuesday. But the real market picture is much critical for ordinary consumers. Ministers responsible to ensure supply in the market and stop price spiraling are only talking big that no one would be allowed to exploit people.  But the market is working quite differently. Prices of edible oil; sugar, onion, lentils and green vegetables are on rise and staying beyond the reach of common people. Inflation on non-food items is also soaring but it is rice prices hitting buyers the worst. Who will rein in the situation is most conspicuous by their absence from the scene. 

Economists blamed food inflation mainly to shortage of government stock; which now stands 4.90 lakh tones by the end of March and account for 43.7 percent shortfall from a year earlier. Since we have a desperate situation becoming clear with government market intervention capacity sharply limited, private stockiests and retailers are taking advantage charging higher prices. No rice item now sells in the city market below Tk 35 per Kg while improved quality rice sells at Tk 50 and above. The rising food price is noticeable all over the country.
 
Markets blamed higher tariff on rice import; which is now 25 percent from 2017-18 up from 10 percent earlier for poor stock. But the question is why the government has not procured enough stock and now waiting arrival of new imports to beef up the stock. But the critical fact is that once hoarders and retailers could realize that the government intervention capacity is quite at low, they start recklessly exploiting the situation. Barring the controversy whether or not the flood and blasts have destroyed 7.50 lakhs tonnes crops the fact is that it has created the vulnerability in which dishonest traders are free to exploit the situation. 
 
Our point is that it is not a matter of debate how flood has created the vulnerable situation, the issue is what is the government preparedness is there to tackle the post flood situation and ensure supply at fair cost during Ramzan. The situation is not much hopeful anyway.  


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