A view-exchange meeting organised by the FBCCI and attended by traders of all hues--- refiners, millers, wholesalers and retailers--- held last Sunday ahead of the holy month of Ramadan was more of a routine affair. The apex chamber organizes this kind of meeting every year.
Consumers do never expect anything tangible from such meetings, for all sections of traders dealing in essentials in breach of their promise to keep essentials' prices stable have always been up for grabbing a few extra bucks during Ramadan.
This year, however, the atmosphere of such a meeting held at the FBCCI headquarters was unlike that of the previous gatherings. It was quite volatile with the millers and refiners on the one side and the wholesalers on the other pointing accusing fingers at each other when the practice of selling essentials beyond the government-fixed prices came up for discussion. The wholesalers accused the millers and refiners of charging prices higher than the ones fixed by the government. The items they mentioned included sugar and cooking oils. They also alleged that there was a mismatch in prices the refiners and millers put in their sale receipts and the amount they realize from wholesalers, an allegation instantly dismissed by the former group.
Consumers, however, will have no reasons to be amused by the 'circus' staged by the traders. When the traders were holding their ritualistic meeting at the business district of Motijheel, the prices of a few essentials recorded yet another jump much to the discomfort of most consumers. The situation worsened during the last couple of days with prices of egg and chicken going up by another big margin. The price of a kilogramme of broiler chicken was selling at Tk 220 last Wednesday, representing a more than 50 per cent hike over the past few months. Prices of most other food items and spices have also gone through the roof. With the relevant government agencies remaining inactive in matters of price control, consumers have resigned to their fate.
The ground is fertile for profit-hungry traders to maximise their profit. The Russian-Ukraine war gave the first opportunity to hike the prices of imported essentials. When the international prices started easing, the shortage of dollars at home came as a real shocker. Though the government has kept the greenback window open for the import of essentials, some traders are finding it difficult to open the letters of credit and pay for the goods that arrived at the country's ports. Needless to mention the impact of soaring prices of the dollar against the local currency on goods imported from abroad. The locally produced goods, essentials or otherwise, too are experiencing some degree of sympathetic rise.
The month of Ramadan is nearly five weeks away. Consumers are bracing for another bout of price rise since the traders have the habit of maximising their profit during Ramadan.
President of FBCCI Jashim Uddin reminded participants of the last Sunday's meeting about the tradition of many countries where traders lower prices of goods on the occasion of festivals, religious or otherwise. His observation would surely have no impact on the greedy traders. The latter are most likely to make a repeat performance during the upcoming Ramadan.