The government will launch a tougher crackdown against illegal hoarders of edible oil from next week to help restore stability in the cooking oil market that has been volatile for the last three weeks.
Under the move, stricter actions, including filing cases, imposing financial penalty, and scrapping licences, will be taken against the unscrupulous traders.
These were disclosed in a press briefing in the city on Thursday. The Directorate of National Consumers' Rights Protection (DNCRP), organised the event, chaired by its director general A H M Shafiquzzaman, at its office.
Representatives and leaders of the city's different kitchen market associations and major refiners spoke on the occasion.
Meanwhile, the government published a gazette on Thursday, which said a wholesaler could store maximum 30 tonnes of edible oil in a month, while a retailer could store maximum five tonnes in every twenty days.
The DNCRP DG in the press conference said unscrupulous traders siphoned off around Tk 1.60 billion before the Eid-ul-Fitr by selling edible oil at exorbitant prices than the government-fixed rates.
The directorate is going to start a combined drive involving the country's law-enforcing agencies to prevent illegal hoarding as well as to find out the traders, involved in artificial hike of edible oil prices.
Mr Shafiquzzaman also said his organisation is going to take tougher actions against wrongdoers by filing cases instead of imposing fiscal penalty only.
"We've talked to the key law-enforcing agencies in this regard, and a drive will start in a coordinated way from next week."
The directorate also found that people were forced to buy other products in packages while purchasing edible oil during the Eid festival, he mentioned.
The DNCRP DG further said an orientation of dealers across the country would be organised within a short period to prepare a guideline.
All the parties concerned, including refiners, dealers, wholesalers and retailers, would have to follow the laws while doing business, he added.
Secretary of New Super Market Traders Association Abu Taher said the companies concerned forced the grocers to buy tea, mustard oil, wheat flour, mixed spice, aromatic rice, etc along with edible oil especially before and during the Eid day.
The dealers have several storages, which should be specified based on products. These godowns should have signboards of the distributors that could help the government ensure sound market monitoring, he opined.
Md Lokman Hossain, general secretary of Karwan Bazar Kitchen Market Wholesalers' Association, said dealers, alongside refiners and retailers, should also be invited in such programmes.
He also echoed Mr Taher on the package sale of products by grocers following its enforcement by dealers or companies.
However, Md Taslim Shahrier, senior assistant general manager of Meghna Group (parent concern of 'Fresh' brand), said his company has a great brand value in the market, and it has no necessity to sell products forcefully.
"We have already issued letter to the dealers across the country that if anyone is found guilty of selling other products forcefully with edible oil, tough actions will be taken," he noted.
Bashundhara Group general manager (head of sales) Md Redhwanur Rahman said his company is the market leader in flour supply.
"So, we have no need to promote flour with oil," he added.
General manager of Bangladesh Edible Oil Ltd (Rupchanda brand) Mohd Dabirul Islam, head of business of Pusti (product of T K Group) Md Alam Chowdhury, and head of sales of City Group Forhad Hossain also gave the same opinion like other refiners.
All the refiners' representatives mentioned that the supply chain would be normal in no time, as they have already started supplying products with new price tags.
The edible oil market still remained unstable, as most groceries in the capital were yet to get oil on Thursday, the eighth day that the government raised prices of soybean oil by a record high of Tk 38 to Tk 198 a litre.
A few shops got some soybean oil jars, but those were not enough to meet the demand, according to grocers.