Prices of almost all consumer goods are high in the market due to various reasons ranging from price hike in the global market and price of US dollar going up to fuel price hike.

Prices of some items were high already. And for some items it is stable at high price after being hiked recently.

Right now, the price of sugar is quite unbridled. Series of meetings, discussions, advices or guidelines, nothing of that is coming to any use. So, ordinary consumers finding this sweet item bitter isn’t unusual at all.

Retailers are blaming importers for sugar prices being hiked. On the other hand, importers are mentioning upward trend in the international market, goods not being unloaded timely at the port and taka being depreciated against dollar.

Bangladesh Trade and Tariff Commission (BTTC) had informed the commerce ministry last Monday that loose sugar could be sold at Tk 120 per kg in the retail market. And, the price of packaged sugar could be Tk 125.

In fact, the commerce ministry has also sent letters to sugar mill owners’ association for activating the BTTC-recommended prices. But a kilogram of sugar is selling at Tk 135-145 in the market.

The commerce ministry on 6 April had fixed loose sugar price at Tk 104 per kg after reducing it by Tk 3. Sugar didn’t sell at that price back then.

Earlier in February duties of importing sugar were reduced, which will be expiring this month. For sugar being high in demand during Ramadan, the price was hiked as well.

But what’s the reason behind the rise in sugar market even after the Ramadan and Eid being over? When the ministers and state ministers of the government also talk of ‘syndicate’, isn’t it their responsibility to break it then?

Bangladesh Sugar and Food Industries Corporation currently doesn’t have enough sugar in their storage to supply the loose market. Yet, high rate of duty has been levied on sugar import to provide this agency with protection.

In case of manufacturers, total tax load in importing unrefined sugar is about 47 per cent now. Businessmen are saying that tax on a kilogram of sugar stands close to Tk 35.

Annual demand of sugar in the country is 1.8 million metric tonnes. Sugar and Food Industries Corporation mills have produced less than 25,000 tonnes of that (2021-2022).   

The government should have renewed and diversified the government sugar mills. It’s difficult for them to survive by producing only sugar. It’s possible to extract huge amount of methyl and ethyl alcohol from Sugar mill’s by-product Chita Gur (molasses) and Jhola Gur (liquid jaggery).

There’s potential of exporting these products to neighbouring India, Nepal, Bhutan and Sri Lanka. There’s extensive use of these in pharmaceutical industry as well.

How credible are the excuses which businessmen are showing concerning the sugar price hike?

Importers after bringing unrefined sugar, refine this inside the country. Though the import cost can be verified, whatever they say about the mill cost has to be accepted without debate in that case.

To keep the sugar market stable, the commerce secretary held a meeting at the secretariat last Thursday.

Representatives from Bangladesh Bank, National Board of Revenue (NBR), Ministry of Industries, BTTC, Bangladesh Police’s Special Branch, Criminal Investigation Department, National Security Intelligence as well as members of the association were present there.

How many representatives from how many agencies have attended this sort of meetings isn’t important, the important issue is what benefits can come of that meeting. Sugar market cannot be controlled by just holding meetings, regular monitoring has to be reinforced as well.  

The complaint importers have made about there being delay in unloading goods from ships at the port because of dollar crisis, has to be taken into consideration. Plus, there has to be initiatives in this connection.

Whether there are logical reasons behind the issues with sugar or it’s a strategy, that too has to be explored.