The Financial Express

Cushioning consumers against edible oil-price hike

| Updated: August 28, 2022 22:03:15

File photo (Collected) File photo (Collected)

Soybean oil price has reportedly taken a fresh jump following yet another upward adjustment of the price of this essential item according to an announcement made by the Bangladesh Vegetable Refiners' and Vanaspati Manufacturers' Association (BVORVMA) on Tuesday. Under this new arrangement, a customer will now have to pay Tk192 for each litre of bottled soybean oil at the retail shop. This is an increase of Tk7.0 per litre of this vital kitchen stuff given that its previous price was Tk185 per litre. Similarly, for unpacked or loose soybean oil, the new rate per litre will be Tk 175, an increase of Tk 9.0 over the previous rate.  As reported in the media, the latest decision on soybean oil price came after the BVORVMA made a suggestion to this effect to the government early in the first week of this month. The BVORVMA's proposal was to raise soybean oil's price by Tk 20 per litre.  

Interestingly, the edible oil association's move followed weeks after the government had cut the oil's price by Tk14 a litre in sync with a fall in the item's price in the international market. The global market for soybean oil is still steady. For even on Tuesday, the day when the newly fixed soybean oil price came into effect, the price of this item in the international market was around US$1,500 per tonne. That comes to a maximum of around Tk156.24 per litre whereas the price of the same item in the local market now ranges from Tk175 to Tk192. Why is this price difference? The edible oil cartel's argument is that the price of soybean oil has to be increased as the value of US dollar against taka has increased by 15 to 20 per cent in the forex market. What is more, they have to pay for the oil at the current dollar price and not at what was prevailing when the Letter of Credit (L/C) for importing the item was opened, the refiners further point out.  

This is indeed another body blow for common people who have already been reeling from the galloping food inflation, though their incomes have remained where they were before the inflation. Worse yet, their real income has been on a falling curve as taka is losing its value constantly against US dollar. But, to all appearances, that is of little concern to the refiners and wholesalers of soybean oil. It is, as though, fated that the price of edible oil, soybean in particular, will increase and its consumers will have to accept it as a fact of life.  

In fact, there was never any dearth of excuses for the edible oil merchants to increase price. Evidently, the government has been listening with sympathy to all the arguments for price hike put forward by the edible oil cartel. But what about the common consumers who are always at the receiving end? The government, at this point, needs also to listen to the people who have their back now literally to the wall and also do something for them. The trend of runway price hike of all daily essentials including edible oil, especially soybean, has to be arrested by any means. To that end, the government will have to intervene and, as necessary, take some measures to cushion the common consumers against this extreme volatility of the essentials' market. 

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