The government is set to procure a large quantity of key essential goods ahead of Ramadan to avert any possible crisis during the fasting month, officials said.
The move came after an intelligence agency sounded warning about creating artificial crisis of essential items by dishonest traders during Ramadan.
Bangladesh Trade and Tariff Commission (BTTC) also recommended taking necessary preparations to control the prices of essential goods in Ramadan.
As part of the move, the government will purchase over 0.121 million tonnes of different key essential items before Ramadan.
Of the volume, 50,000 tonnes of edible oil, 30,000 tonnes of onion and 30,000 tonnes of sugar, 3,000 tonnes of lentils, 8,000 tonnes of gram and 500 tonnes of date will be bought from local and international market, according to the commerce ministry.
When contacted, commerce secretary Dr Md Jafar Uddin said, "We have taken initiatives to ensure adequate supply of essential items and keep their prices stable during the month of Ramadan."
Meanwhile, an intelligence agency has sounded the alarm over the possible price hike of essential commodities during the holy month of Ramadan.
"It will be difficult to control the commodity market during this Ramadan if the government does not rein in the prevailing price hike of essential items including rice, onion, edible oil and spices," according to a report of Special Branch (SB) of Police.
The report also suggested that the state agencies concerned take urgent measures to cool down the heated market.
The intelligence agency in its report said it would be tough to control the prices of essential items during the fasting month if 'the government fails to contain its upward trend'.
The report also suggested making necessary efforts to ensure adequate stock and import of essential goods as per the country's demand.
It recommended strengthening the activities of Trading Corporation of Bangladesh (TCB) and importing essential items with providing government subsidy, if needed, to maintain price stability.
The SB suggested the commerce ministry monitor the market regularly and take stern action against hoarders and profiteers.
They also advised the commerce ministry to keep close watch on importers, wholesalers and retail traders so that they cannot increase the prices of essential goods by spreading propaganda.
The special branch under the Bangladesh Police urged the authority concerned to give necessary instructions to scheduled banks to help genuine importers.
The prices of key essentials like sugar, onion, edible oil and vegetables showed an uptrend despite having sufficient supplies in the market, according to the report.
Prices of essential items including rice, pulses and spices are witnessing hike in the international market following the outbreak of the coronavirus and massive fire in Australia, it added.
The government has already asked its market monitoring agencies to step up vigilance so that none can raise commodity prices in the name of short supply, linked to coronavirus epidemic in China.
The ministry of commerce at an emergency meeting on February 07 gave the instructions to the TCB, Directorate of National Consumer Rights Protection (DNCRP), and its own market monitoring teams.
The meeting, chaired by the commerce secretary, asked the officials to remain alert so that no businessman can take advantage of undue profits.
A meeting source said commodity prices usually see a significant rise during the holy month of Ramadan.
The meeting also asked all concerned to take appropriate steps so that price hike can be averted during the holy month.
When contacted, a senior commerce ministry official said, "The market monitoring teams have been reinforced. We've asked them to be more careful about their duties throughout the year especially during Ramadan."
"We've have taken a move to ensure sufficient stock of essential items to fulfil the demand during Ramadan," he added.
Ahead of the fasting month, TCB will start selling essentials at subsidized rates across the country. It is selling onion at subsidized rate now.
The commerce ministry several times sat with traders to review the supply, stock and prices of essential items. It will sit again with traders, if needed.
In the meetings, traders said they have enough stock of commodities like gram, onion, sugar, edible oil and lentils. They hoped the prices of these items would remain stable during Ramadan.
When contacted, a BTTC member said, "Essential goods will be procured to keep the commodity market stable during upcoming Ramadan. The state-run Trading Corporation of Bangladesh (TCB) will sell these items to the common people at subsidized rates."
For procurement of these items, formalities relating to letter of credit (L/C) have already been completed, he added.
He also said there is a stock of onion as the harvesting season continues in the country.
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