The prices of gram, sugar, wheat, edible oil, etc., are on the increase. Traders say prices are increasing because of lower imports. But, according to Chittagong Customs, essential commodities for Ramadan are now being unloaded from 21 big ships. These ships have carried about 1.0 million tons of gram, unrefined sugar, edible oil and salt. Unloading of the imported goods will be completed in one week's time.
Meanwhile, during the last one week, the price of gram has increased by Tk 250 per maund. Normally 10,000 tons of gram is imported every month. Currently import of gram is three times more than the normal. In spite of this, the price of the item in the retail market has increased by Tk 6.0 per kg. The same situation exists in respect of sugar. When sugar import amounted to 175 thousand tons three months back, price of the item in the retail market was Tk 52 per kg. Currently 219 thousand tons of sugar is being unloaded simultaneously from four ships but the price of the item in the retail market is Tk 75 per kg.
In the current financial year 4.38 million tons of wheat has been imported in 8 months and 21 days. At the same time of previous year the import was 3.78 million tons. But the price of ata has increased by Tk 4.0 per kg.
The price of edible oil is stable in the international market but it is getting costlier in the country. Recently 170 thousand tons of edible oil has been imported in 12 ships. Price of soyabean oil has increased by Tk 8.0 per litre. Each litre is selling at Tk 100 to Tk 107; the price was Tk 94 two months back.
Bangladesh is now self-sufficient in rice production but consumers are not getting its benefit. During the last few months the price of course rice has gone up by Tk 8/10 per kg in the capital city of Dhaka.
Laws regarding consumer rights protection are not effective. According to TCB (Trading Corporation of Bangladesh), during last one year price of rice has gone up by16 per cent, edible oil 13 per cent, gram 18 per cent, sugar 31 per cent, salt 17 per cent and broiler chicken 10 per cent. These items are selling at different prices in different markets. There is none to supervise.
People are afraid these signs bode bad news for the consumers during the Ramadan which is to start after about two months. Consumers are saying that businessmen are importing more and hoarding those items while increasing prices in the retail market. They are doing this because during Ramadan administration will be more alert.
The writer is an economist and columnist.