Amidst the crisis of soybean oil where there is an acute scarcity of this product in the market, certain traders have been hoarding the oil and selling it at high prices. Abdul Hakim, proprietor of Khwaja Centre at Chattogram Gate 2, hoarded 1000 litres of soybean oil in the godown located under his shop.
This stock of soybean oil was discovered during a raid carried out Sunday afternoon by the Directorate of National Consumer Rights Protection. Later a Tk 40,000 fine was imposed on Abdul Hakim for illegally hoarding oil and storing date-expired ghee, in the godown.
Deputy director of the Chattogram division consumer rights directorate, Fayez Ullah, speaking to Prothom Alo, said that ghee which had exceeded the expiry date had been found in that shop. The shop proprietor had also illegally hoarded oil to create an artificial crisis of the product in the market. He was fined for these two offences. The oil was sold to the nearby shops at the price marked on the labels.
Abdul Hakim, however, claimed he was a wholesaler. Speaking to Prothom Alo, he said he supplied oil to the various restaurants and shops in the city and that is why the oil had been stored in his godown. He said he had purchased soybean oil throughout the month of Ramadan and sold some of it. Some of it remained unsold and he had kept that in the godown.
However, during the raid, a number of shoppers complained that Khwaja Store had charged them higher than the price on the label. A customer, Faruk Uddin, said he had gone to buy three litres of oil from Khwaja Store before the raid began. The price on the bottle was Tk 460, but the shop assistant asked for Tk 590. That was when the consumer rights directorate arrived on the scene.
Even today, Sunday, oil was not available in many of the larger markets and shops in the lanes and alleys of the city. The distributors did not supply soybean oil to the market. Some bought the older stock of oil at higher prices. A certain Farhad Ahmed who lives in Momenbagh residential area of Chattogram city, bought five litres of soybean oil from a local grocery at 11:00 in the morning. The price on the bottle was Tk 760, but he had to pay Tk 1000 for it. The shop assistant explained that there was no oil in the market so he could, "take it or leave it."
Others like Farhad also paid prices higher than the price on the label for soybean oil. Three such consumers had the same complaint at the city's Railgate 2, Probortok intersection and Momenbagh. There was no soybean oil to be found in five shops of the area. In three shops there was soybean oil, but less in amount. Even in Bahaddarhat kitchen market, Karnaphuli Complex 2 and other such large markets, oil was not available.
Proprietor of Shahjalal Store in the Bahaddarhat kitchen market, Abdul Mannan, told Prothom Alo that even today, Sunday, no company supplied oil to the market. Most of the shops were selling the oil purchased before Eid but there was not much left. Some shops were selling loose palm oil for Tk 200 per litre. Bottled soybean oil was being sold at the same price, meaning old oil was being sold at new prices.
President of the Bahaddarhat kitchen market, Jan-e-Alam said, no company had supplied oil as yet. No trucks with oil and entered the market. The crisis continued as before.