The Financial Express

Market watch reinforced to rein in price rises

No downtrend in onion prices yet

| Updated: September 23, 2019 15:17:47

A man buying onion from a TCB sale point near the Jatiya Press Club in the city on Sunday. The Trading Corporation of Bangladesh (TCB) started selling onion under open market sale in the wake of sudden price hike of the essential kitchen item — FE photo A man buying onion from a TCB sale point near the Jatiya Press Club in the city on Sunday. The Trading Corporation of Bangladesh (TCB) started selling onion under open market sale in the wake of sudden price hike of the essential kitchen item — FE photo

In the wake of a volatile commodity market, the government has heightened monitoring to stabilise the prices of essentials, officials said.

Commerce ministry has doubled its vigilance teams to oversee the kitchen market with intent to give some succour to consumers.

As many as 28 teams instead of the previous 14 teams are now supervising the market.

The ministry has deployed four teams per day, including weekends to monitor at least eight markets in Dhaka city, said a desk official familiar with the move.

The teams comprise representatives from commerce, agriculture, home, industries and food ministries, Bangladesh Tariff Commission, Dhaka City Corporation, district administration and Dhaka Metropolitan Police.

Members from Directorate of National Consumer Rights Protection and Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry are also part of the teams.

A commerce ministry official said the government intends to closely monitor the price situation with an eye to keeping prices of essentials within the people's purchasing power.

Commerce secretary Md Jafar Uddin was unavailable for comment despite several attempts over phone.

The new teams have strengthened the market oversight to keep stable the prices of essentials, including onion, said deputy commerce secretary Md Abul Kalam Azad.

They are collecting price data and information on stock and supply of essentials, he told the FE.

If any anomaly arises, he said, the on-the-spot mobile courts will take action against any traders.

The teams also take stringent action against price manipulators as per existing law, he continued.

"Market monitoring will be strengthened to keep stable onion prices," Mr Jafar told the media last Tuesday after a meeting with importers and stakeholders.

He told the meeting that onion prices would be stable shortly as the government has taken effective steps to rein in its galloping prices.

But there is no visible impact on onion prices yet.

Last week, the state-owned Trading Corporation of Bangladesh started selling onion at subsidised rates in different parts of the city.

Yet, onion prices marked a fresh hike here on Sunday.

The open market sale (OMS) of onion and heightened vigilance seemed futile as they could not put any impact on the mainstream market, said market insiders.

Its prices increased by Tk 5.0-10 a kg both at retail and wholesale levels further in a day.

Local onion retailed at Tk 80-85 a kg and imported varieties at Tk 70-75 on Sunday, according to kitchen market sources.

Imported onions sold at Tk 65-68 a kg and local one at Tk 75-78 at Shyambazar, Karwanbazar and Beribandh wholesale bazaars the same day.

However, TCB recorded a Tk 14-18 per cent hike in a day and a Tk 42-46 per cent rise in a week of onion prices.

Kamal Hossain, a grocer on Mandir Lane, Rayerbazar said onion prices will be increased further at retail level on Monday if this wholesale trend continues.

"I bought local onion at Tk 78 a kg this (Sunday) morning at Shyambazar which was Tk 69 a kg on Saturday," he added.

Sources said the wholesale rate of local onion at many markets increased to Tk 80 a kg in the evening.

TCB, however, doubled the volume of its OMS sale from Sunday by supplying 10 tonnes of onion to the city from trucks at 10 different points.

The trucks sold imported onions at Tk 45 a kg while a person was allowed to buy maximum 2.0 kg.

Despite raising OMS volume, prices of the spice continued to surge.

TCB spokesperson Humayun Kabir said OMS was available near the National Press Club, Bangladesh Bank, Jurain, Postagola, Mirpur section-10, Mirpur 60-feet Road, Mohammadpur, New Market, Azampur, Rampura and Kamrangirchar.

The operation might be expanded within a few days.

However, commerce minister earlier declared that there was an ample supply of the spice on the local market and the price would fall soon.

Even Bangladesh Tariff Commission member Shah M Abu Raihan Al Beruni at a ministerial meeting on September 17 hinted at price fall within the next 24 hours.

But the onion market continues to see a rising trend.

Meanwhile, Consumers Association of Bangladesh secretary Humayun Kabir Bhuiyan said the state move seemed pointless for lack of strong monitoring.

Major importers and traders have not been scrutinised yet, he decried.

Mr Bhuiyan said the volume of OMS sale is also too scanty to meet the daily demand in the capital.

The government is providing only 10 tonnes of onion for OMS against a demand of 1900 tonnes here, he stated.

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