No initiative to increase oil production despite minister's assurance

The assurance and warning by the commerce minister Tipu Munshi after a meeting with the task force committee to control price does not seem to comfort the people at all. He said soybean oil is harmful for the human body. We believe the minister might have said this following the price hike of essential lately. Why didn’t he warn us earlier if soybean oil is so bad for health? Secondly the minister has suggested the consumers to use rice bran oil instead. Around 50,000 to 60,000 tonnes of rice bran oil is produced in the country now. He said, it could be increased by 700,000 tonnes.

After the second meeting of the task force committee on Wednesday, commerce minister Tipu Munshi also spoke to reporters about wheat. Around 74 per cent of wheat import comes from India. The minister said that even if the country imposed a ban on wheat exports, it would not be fully applicable to Bangladesh. But the reality is that the price of flour in Bangladesh has gone up by four taka per kg immediately after the announcement of ban of Indian exports. Even if the price of flour goes up, it will have an effect on rice price as well.

In Ishwardi, Pabna, Rashid Oil Mills Limited started production of rice bran oil in 2011 under the name 'White Gold'. Many other companies started producing rice bran oil later. But they did not get much support from the government. As a result, many have left the business failing to compete with imported oil.

According to the Export Promotion Bureau (EPB), 20,000 tonnes of crude rice bran oil was exported from the country in 2017-18 due to lack of demand in the country. Rice bran oil is very popular in many countries including India and China.

Our ministers assure the people that they have nothing to fear whenever the price of a product goes up. But no effective steps have been taken to implement that assurance. When the commerce minister advised the people to consume rice bran oil produced in the country instead of imported soybean oils, what is the real situation?

Although the nutritional value of this oil is higher than that of soybean and palm, there is no initiative to make it popular with consumers and reduce its production cost. According to the minister, the country is currently producing 50,000 to 60,000 tonnes of rice bran oil. How long will it take to raise it to 700,000? What will people consume in the meantime?

No matter how harmful and high the price of soybean or palm oil is, people will be forced to buy it as long as the government cannot provide alternative oil. It may take two to three years to increase the production of rice bran even if efforts are made right away. Until then, the countrymen have to consume the imported oil.

Prime minister Sheikh Hasina has advised everyone to be frugal besides increasing production of food products. We appreciate her advice but will the rich people of the society will listen to her advice? The average consumers, the poor and marginalised, are always frugal. Hard reality forces them to be frugal.