Soaring Prices Protect The People From Market Mishap

Md. Shafiqul Islam

15 November 2020

The Covid-19 is having a massive negative impact on the economy, leading to decline in people's earning capacity. The condition of poor and middle class people is very critical because their daily income is significantly decreasing. In the Covid-19's situation, many poor and middle class people leave the capital city and move to the villages due to less scope of employment. They are passing their lives through a lot of misery. Now a new threat arises in their lives due to rising prices of daily necessities.  
The price of daily necessities is increasing day by day. First, the price of onion increases; later the price of rice and now the price of other vegetables including potato also rise in the market. How do the poor people eat and survive? People now become helpless when they go to the market. However, we are currently having a good time in food production because the farmers of our country are very successful in the production of potato and rice. At present, Bangladesh ranks fourth in the world in rice production and sixth in potato, mango and guava production. We have also made considerable progress in vegetable production than the past time.
However, our major problem is increasing the price of onions. Last year, the price of onions was increased and this year too. Price hike of onions is causing instability in the market. Why will the price increase in the country as soon as India stops exporting onions? The onion stock in our country should handle the market for a few days in the crisis. Why do we rely on a single country only for onion imports? If we had the policy of importing onions from other countries, this situation may not happen in the market.
In November 2019, we had to purchase onions at a price of Tk 280-300 per kg. That happened due to stopping supply from India. The situation is the same this year. So, the government should decide multiple alternatives to import onions. But, India cannot stop onion exports without prior announcement because we have friendly relations with India. The sudden stoppage of onion exports has created a huge gap between supply and demand in the market. Some people think that the price of onion is increasing in our country due to the sudden stoppage of onion export by India. Again, many people think that there is a syndicate in the market; it is also responsible to increase the price of onion. Currently, the price of domestic onion goes up to Tk100 per kg and the price of Indian onion goes up to Tk 40 per kg. But domestic onion's price was 40 and Indian onion at Tk 30-35 per kg a few days ago.
Unscrupulous traders have increased the price of rice on the excuse of floods. At present, there is sufficient supply of rice in the market. In all markets, the price of all types of rice has gone up by Tk 2 to 5 per kg. At the end of every season, traders increase the price of rice on various pretexts. The government does not seem to be able to control the market even by fixing the wholesale price of rice. Potato prices rise excessively although potato production is huge in the current year.  Even potatoes are rotting during the season. Now consumers can't buy potatoes because the potato's price is severely higher than last year. There are various campaigns to control the prices. But, when I go to the market, I see that the price of potatoes is not reducing.
However, the government is taking various steps to keep the prices of onions, rice and potatoes within the purchasing power of the people. There is also a lot of supervision on the market. But the price of consumer goods is not reasonable in the market. Theoretically, multiple regulatory bodies are observing the market but practically it is fully out of control. It seems that there may be a deficit in market monitoring.
Even though Bangladesh is an agricultural country, we are not able to supply daily necessities like onion, potato, rice due to lack of storage facilities, farmers not getting fair price, lack of extensive training for farmers and lack of adequate research etc. However, the government has taken various steps such as research on onions, rice and innovation of new varieties to address these problems. Effective measures and monitoring should be increased so that farmers get fair prices for the products. Moreover, the minimum and maximum price of all the consumer goods should be fixed keeping in view the cost of production of the farmer. If the government can ensure all the security measures for the farmers and set up a cold storage in each district, such problems can be solved.
Sometimes the price of a product rises due to rumors or unreasonable excess stock of the buyers for fear of future shortage in the market. In times of crisis, a group of opportunistic traders syndicate works to increase the price of goods. So, the dishonest traders must be brought to trial.
The abnormal rise in prices of daily necessities is undoubtedly increasing the suffering of the people. We, the employees, are struggling when we go to the market, and what a miserable condition the poor people are in. If the syndicate in the market and the rise in commodity prices cannot be controlled, it is tough for the poor people to survive. In other words, the government has to control the prices of consumer goods in the market to protect us.

(Mr. Shafiqul is Assistant Professor, Dept. of Accounting & Information Systems, Jatiya Kabi Kazi Nazrul Islam University, Mymensingh and PhD Fellow, Zhongnan University of Economics and Law, Wuhan, China).

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