Edible oil disappears from the market: Find the culprits

The stock of edible oil suddenly disappeared from most of the shops across the country before and after Eid. According to Prothom Alo, despite the price hike, edible oil is still out of stock in the market. Buyers were seen returning empty handed in various markets in the capital, including Karwan Bazar, on Friday. In some shops, buyers were forced to buy oil at a price higher than the revised one.

The first question that comes to mind is whether the government was at all ready to deal with the crisis. It is true that since the start of the Ukraine war, prices of many essentials, including edible oil, have risen in the international market. Following this the importers of edible oil have also increased the price from time to time. During Ramadan, they pushed for another price hike, but the government did not agree.

The price of soybean oil was increased by Tk 38 per litre to Tk 198 on Thursday. Bottled soybean oil is being sold at retail at Tk 198 per litre. And the price of a five litre bottle is Tk 975. Besides, the selling price of unpackaged soybean oil has been fixed at Tk 180 per litre and unpackaged palm oil at Tk 182 per litre. Yet what could be the reason behind most of the markets in the capital having no stock of soybean oil?

Indonesia has already stopped exporting palm oil and Argentina has restricted exports. Our traders have taken advantage of this, thinking the price will go up further. That is why they hoarded the oil. Neither Indonesia nor Argentina's announcement is likely to have an immediate effect on the market. The Director General of the Directorate of National Consumer Rights Protection said that the stockists hoarded edible oil sensing the prices might increase.

The country has laws against illegal stocking. No one can store essential consumer goods like edible oil at their whim. But they do this anyway. Various media reported about this. In a free market economy the government cannot control the market completely, but it can be monitored. That way the buyer would not have to suffer.

Like many other issues the government is relying on stopgap solutions. Concerned individuals and organisations have remained inactive until the crisis has taken its toll on the people. Analysts believe that the war in Ukraine will continue. In that case, the price of all imported goods, including edible oil, is likely to rise further. Effective planning is needed now to overcome the crunch. In order for people with limited income to get oil, it is necessary to increase the sale of oil at low prices through TCB. At the same time, the price of oil can be reduced by reducing the import duty. Legal action should be taken against those who have created artificial crisis in the domestic market using the excuse of price hike in international market.