Volatile edible oil market worries all
Volatile edible-oil market has fuelled up concerns of the government, consumers and trade-bodies, as many of the city groceries are now operating without any bottled oil on their shelves amid traders' supply stoppage, said insiders.
Soybean oil price shot up to Tk 175-185 a litre in the city markets in the last few days, while the groceries were not getting edible oils even after submitting orders to the distributors a week back, said the grocers.
The edible oil market started becoming volatile from February 26 following the refiners' new proposal to raise maximum retail prices (MRP) of edible oils as well as the beginning of Russia-Ukraine war.
A report, published on the Financial Express on February 28, revealed that unscrupulous traders were extracting soybean oil from branded five-litre jars, and selling it in loose form for more profit.
The government-run Directorate of National Consumer Rights Protection (DNCRP) asked the country's edible-oil refiners on March 3 to furnish the import, stock and delivery-related information along with customs documents of cooking oils by March 7.
A DNCRP official said the sudden market volatility with price spiral forced the agency to assess the import, supply and stock positions of edible oils from the refiners and traders.
The directorate would conduct necessary drives in every refinery after receiving the information from them, he told the FE.
Meanwhile, the Federation of Bangladesh Chamber of Commerce and Industries (FBCCI) called for an urgent meeting at its office on Monday (today) to find out ways to tackle the edible oil market problem.
Businesses, stakeholders concerned and media personnel are expected to participate in the meeting, said a FBCCI press release.
However, Monir Hossain, Syed Mohidul Kabir and Mohammad Ullah, lawyers of the Supreme Court (SC), filed a writ petition as public interest litigation with the High Court (HC) on Sunday.
They sought its directives upon the government bodies concerned to form a monitoring cell as well as to formulate policies for controlling the prices of soybean oil in the market.
The writ petition was placed in the HC bench of Justice Farah Mahbub and Justice S M Maniruzzaman for hearing on Sunday. However, the bench fixed Monday for holding hearing on it, said Syed Mohidul Kabir.
The commerce secretary, home secretary, director general of the Bangladesh Competition Commission, director general of the DNCRP, president of the FBCCI, chairman of the Trading Corporation of Bangladesh (TCB), and others were made respondents in the writ petition.
Consumers Association of Bangladesh (CAB) vice president S M Nazer Hossain said the edible oil price hike is surely an act of syndication of some refiners and their allied traders to make a windfall profit by giving excuse of the Russia-Ukraine war.
He opined that the commerce ministry could easily collect data on edible oil import of last four months from the National Broad of Revenue (NBR), the Bangladesh Trade and Tariff Commission (BTTC) or from the refiners.
The item might be pricier, but there was no reason that the groceries would run out of edible oil.
The government should also remove all kinds of taxes or VATs on imported edible oils for an interim period following the 14-year-high global edible oil prices.
Realising more than 35 per cent VATs from edible oils in three different stages would now be an unethical practice when global prices of both palm oil and soybean oil crossed US$ 1,700 a tonne, he added.
Bangladesh annually imports 2.2 million to 2.6 million tonnes of edible oils, including 0.7 million to 0.8 million tonnes of soybean oil, and 1.4 million to 1.6 million tonnes of palm oil. More than 95 per cent of the local demand is met through import.