The Financial Express

FBCCI flays oligopoly for onion price spiral

| Updated: October 18, 2021 10:40:44

FBCCI flays oligopoly for onion price spiral

Country's apex chamber blames a small group of traders for the quirky onion-price spikes and urges the business community not to try for a windfall on the market.

"Image of the entire business community is being tarnished for few wrongdoers," said FBCCI president Md. Jashim Uddin on Sunday, thus affirming suspicion of market analysts about price manipulation by certain oligopoly.

Urging the businesspeople not to make exorbitant profit taking recourse to unethical practices, the chief of the apex trade body said the federation wouldn't allow image of the community to be degraded for "a few dishonest people in market manipulation anymore".

Mr Jashim vented his frustration at a discussion on 'Stock, Import, Supply and Price Situation of Essential Commodities', held at the office of the Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry or FBCCI hot on the heels of price rises of almost all daily necessaries.

Moderating the event, he said the government recently cut down duty on import of onion in a move to cool down the market where price of the widely-consumed item was going up abnormally.

Moments after the duty cutback, onion price went down by Tk 15 that surprised the FBCCI president.

"How is it possible? It would take some days to make an impact of the duty cut. It means there is something wrong and people keep abusing the whole business community. We cannot allow this happening," the business leader told his audience.

He said that the FBCCI would take the issue very seriously and work to break such syndicate on the market.

Mr Jashim Uddin said the onions are sold wholesale at different prices from one store to another at ShyamBazaar. On the retail market also, the price differentials from one market to another are 10 to 15 taka per kg.

"This condition is abnormal. It is a kind of anarchy. A few businessmen are responsible for this. We will definitely do business, but we will not do anything that will ruin the image of the entire business community," he added.

During the discussion, warehouse owners and importers gave various excuses for the increase in prices of commodities, like extortion from onion transport, rain in onion-sourcing region in India, damage of significant portion of onions and higher electricity bills than the price fixed by the government.

These extraneous factors, they said, fuelled the prices of the essential commodities.

But the FBCCI chief was not convinced by the reasoning of the traders, and he scuttled it with specific market data.

He pointed out that one kilogram of local variety of onion sold at Shyambazar wholesale market at Tk 50 but, surprisingly, the traders were charging Tk 60, Tk 65 and Tk 68 for the same in Gulshan, New Market and Shantinagar retail markets respectively.

"What is the logic behind this? You (dishonest traders) cannot fix rate on your own. Businessmen should not do such profit. The profit should be rational," he said.

Helal Uddin, President of Bangladesh Shop Owners' Association, argued about various expenses of the market association in favour of collecting additional electricity bills.

Mostofa Azad Chowdhury Babu, senior vice-president of the FBCCI, said that it was not the job of the owners' association to collect electricity bills from shopkeepers. This is the responsibility of the power-distribution company.

FBCCI vice presidents MA Momen, Mr. Md. Aminul Hoque Shamim and Md. Habib Ullah Dawn, its director Khan Ahmed Shuvo and Chief Executive Officer Mohammad Mahfuzul Hoque were among others present at the meeting.

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