Break syndicates to bring down prices of essentials and sufferings of low-income people

10 October 2021


Despite the government's repeated claims of surplus production of rice, sufficient stock of essential goods and a plentiful import of kitchen ingredients, the prices of these essentials remain abnormally high in the country. A business syndicate is taking advantage of the government's lax market monitoring and raising prices at will. Besides, traders with approval from the concerned authorities also increase the prices of edible oil and sugar almost every month citing price hikes in the international market.
Economists and market experts blame the government for failure to ensure fair prices of the essentials, saying the uncontrolled spiral of prices made the middle and low-income people helpless amid the ongoing Covid-19 economic slowdown. They also questioned government statistics about production and consumption of rice. There is no reason for any increase in the price of rice at this time as the stock of the staple item is sufficient in the country and its import is also going on. The price hike of rice is nothing but manipulation by rice millers, they claimed.  It may be mentioned that in August, the government reduced the import duty on rice to 25 per cent from 62 per cent and allowed 415 individuals and organisations to import 16.93 lakh tonnes of rice to keep prices stable. But the initiative has hardly had any impact on the market and rice prices have gone up by Tk 2-3 a kilogram in one month.
Though the pandemic situation is getting normal, the uncontrolled commodity prices are making the daily life of the poor and fixed-income people unbearable. Regarding the exorbitant prices of rice and onion, the Consumers Association of Bangladesh says there is a problem in the government statistics about the production of and the demand for the items. Recently, even a minister said Bangladesh should be a rice-exporting country if it produced 3.8 crore tonnes of the crop as the yearly consumption is 3 crore tonnes. There must be a gap between the estimates of production and consumption. We want regular market monitoring, rather than making a big noise every time prices rise. The government needs to ensure that the supply of essentials to the market remains steady so that prices do not rise. Price hike is the result of demand-supply mismatch.

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