First of all, what is our economic policy regarding the market? Our policy is a free market economy. In this system, it is difficult to control anything by fixing prices. Instead, the focus should be on maintaining a good supply chain and creating a competitive environment, despite the inherent shortcomings.
There is no competition in the market, be it a good or bad. Currently, prices are being fixed as per the tune played by a handful of traders.
When it comes to onions, only one measure can bring down the price – allowing import permits (IP). Currently, there are no other effective tools. Deploying the police in shops will not reduce prices; instead, it may create new problems.
We had previously recommended refraining from imports to benefit farmers. But consumers are now being held hostage by syndicates of a few traders. The level of their greed shocks us.
There will be no respite from the traders' malpractices until the government gains control of 25 per cent of the market. This time, another step that can be taken – allowing foreign entry into the consumer goods business. It may help maintain balance in the market.
General consumers are now in a tight corner due to inflationary pressure. It cannot be said directly that the traders are pushing up inflation.
We have noticed that the government is borrowing an overwhelming amount of money from the market. It implies that a significant amount of taka is being printed. If even a small amount of this newly printed money enters the market, it leaves an impact five times greater than its actual value. It also triggers inflation.
The fluctuation in currency exchange rates is believed to be a major reason for the rising prices of soybeans and sugar.
Over the past year, the taka has depreciated by 20 per cent against the US dollar. For example, two years ago, soybeans were priced at USD 850 per tonne, but now it is being sold at USD 1,150 per tonne.
The soybean price should be slightly higher than the previous figure. But it is now selling at a much higher price. What does it mean? It indicates that traders are making extra profits and have become excessively greedy.
Ghulam Rahman is the president of the Consumers Association of Bangladesh (CAB)