A crisis over the price of onion prevails almost every year. Sources at the government claim production of onion was good this year and the deficit of onion was 1 million (10 lakh) tonnes only. Onion was sold at Tk 40 a kg two weeks ago, now it has soared to Tk 80. Questions have arisen due to the rise in prices of onion by two fold in just two weeks. It is necessary to find out the people manipulating the market from behind.
Other than the ministers and secretaries, representatives of various agencies including Bangladesh Trade and Tariff Commission (BTTC), Trading Corporation of Bangladesh (TCB), Directorate of National Consumers' Rights Protection and Competition Commission were present at the Monday meeting. The data and information the commerce ministry officials placed would protect the traders' interest but there is no one to care for the consumers' interest.
Not only price of onion, prices of almost all essentials are also on the rise. Traders have placed fresh proposal to hike the prices of edible oil and sugar again on the excuse of the international market. Price of liquefied natural gas (LNG) has already been increased on similar excuses. Previously, it was seen whenever traders made a demand to the government, they got it. The commerce ministry said they sent letters to the National Board of Revenue (NBR) twice on tariff reduction for import of onion. Does their responsibility end with sending the letters? Necessary measures will have to be taken so that the move becomes effective. Above all, onion market will have to be kept stable, and the same applies to other imported goods including edible oil.
The policy support of the government is necessary to keep the market stable. If the price of locally grown products falls, the government increases the import duty to protect the interests of local producers. Similarly, if the prices in international market rise, it is possible to keep the market stable by reducing the import tariff. However, the policy support of the government is not enough in the free market economy. In this case, it is necessary to ensure supply of products at low price under own arrangement. The government sometimes does this through the TCB. Since the price of all essentials, including rice, continues to rise, sales of TCB will have to be expanded to rural areas along with the cities.
The government must keep in mind that the income of general people from both urban and rural areas have dropped during the coronavirus pandemic. On top of that, if prices of essentials continue to rise, it will be difficult for them to survive. Holding regular meetings would not be enough to prevent the price spiral of essentials, rather effective and lasting measures must be taken immediately.