Recently the prices of onion hit Tk 220 per kg in the kitchen market of Dhaka city as India banned onion export in last September. With the price of onion, one can buy some 7.34 kg potato, 2.75 kg carrot, 3.86 kg tomato and so on. However, the lack of domestic availability of this necessary commodity is making daily cooking challenging. All the interdependent meals are leaving middle-income families in deep trouble.
The Consumer Rights Protection Act, 2009 prohibits adulteration, hoarding, smuggling, black marketing, cheating or fraud in weight and measurement or selling products at higher prices. Unfortunately, consumer rights and regulations are being breached because of the improper execution. Consumer protection without proper action is not possible.
In order to mitigate this crucial need, some onion has already been imported from Pakistan and Egypt by air. It will not solve the price volatility even if the imported onion is sold at Tk 45 per kg. Instead, it will cause a heavy loss for the government. It may, however, enhance supply of onion in the kitchen market as some 58,500 tonnes of imported onion reached the Chittagong port.
Though the government is making an attempt to bring back the balance between supply and demand in the market, consumers are struggling to adapt to the current situation. They are looking forward to the authorities responsible for taming the market instability.
Lack of consumer awareness and participation is also a flaw, because consumer rights and regulations cannot be protected until the consumers start playing a responsible role under such conditions. Consumers' responsibility is reflected only when a consumer acts responsibly in buying goods or services. Preventing onion purchase for a certain period of time can reduce the pressure and give the government to some space bring the situation under control.
The issue of consumer protection came into the focus because of inadequate onion availability in the market but regular healthy food consumption remains unseen. It is happening because consumers in general are continuing to keep their confidence in the big brands in Bangladesh. Even brands like Maggi, Mr. Noodles and, Mama Noodles have earned consumers' liking because they can eat noodles during break time and it takes less time to prepare. Children also love to get noodles inside their tiffin boxes now. But are all the consumers aware that tasting salt which is used to prepare noodles can lead to a health hazard like damaging the endocrine gland (gland which monitors the hormone levels in the human body).
Fraudulent business is still thriving fast under the cover of growing economy. In 2013, Bangladesh Food Safety Authority (BFSA) got a law to acquire food safety while coordinating amongst the 18 ministries and 486 agencies involved in ensuring the food safety of consumers.
President of the Consumers Association of Bangladesh (CAB), Ghulam Rahman, said, "Bangladesh still needs to struggle a lot for ensuring food safety and getting rid of adulteration."
However, consumer protection laws are there but still in a scattered manner. Unfortunately, the major factors of adulteration are a profit-making tendency and lack of awareness among consumers and sellers. In order to resolve this matter, CAB is working conscientiously in six divisions of Bangladesh to raise awareness about food safety among the consumers.
The Program Coordinator of the CAB, Ahmad Ekramullah said, "Recently CAB is organising events to make people aware about food safety, especially outside Dhaka. We are focusing on the root cause of the issue. Farmers are applying pesticides to vegetables these days. Consumers are not thinking twice before buying goods recommended by close ones but it has been said that prevention is always better than cure. Unfortunately, we are running after doctors to get the cure instead of keeping us away from this harmful effect. So, we are showing farmers to use righteous ingredients to grow fresh vegetables in return they can get handsome incentives. And, asking consumers to monitor food quality while purchasing goods."
He also said, "After prior initiatives, consumers across Bangladesh are raising voice against such a corrupt approach of business individuals. However, 20 years back it was hard to find a complaint on violating consumer protection. During the 90th century, people used to smoke inside a cinema hall but right now it is not happening any more. We are getting thousands of complaints from consumers which we are sorting out through collaborating with Bangladesh Food Safety Authority (BFSA) and the Ministry of Food. As stated by the law, consumers are also obtaining incentives from the compensation for being active citizens of Bangladesh."
In the end, the artificial price hike is a big headache for a developing nation like Bangladesh. Consumers are victims of fraudulent activities and such malpractices are bad for consumers. As we all know, consumers are the king and without them, we cannot expect a flourishing economy in a broader perspective. It is high time we should stand beside each other as a business individual or as a consumer. So, let's move forward collaborating with each other at this juncture because today's companion will bring tomorrow's change.