In a free economy, the market runs spontaneously and on its own. Other than in emergencies, government intervention is unwarranted. However, the government is supposed to monitor the market. If there is any unjustified price hike, the government is to investigate and take action accordingly. But this does not happen.
Rice is the staple food of the people. The working class consumes rice not only to meet their carbohydrate needs, but protein too. It is imperative that the government ensures the price of rice does not exceed the purchasing power of the people. It is not possible for the government to fix the price of rice in the open market. The price of rice may fluctuate in keeping with the local and international market. But, the price of rice sometimes goes up without any logical reason.
This happened before and after the 11th parliament elections. In the last week of January, media outlets reported that the price of rice went up by Tk 3-4 per kg suddenly. The government’s tariff commission could not find the logical reasons behind the price hike. The commission’s monitoring cell, in a report, said that in comparison to last year, 2.47 million more tonnes of rice was produced in 2017-18. In the same year, over 4.2 million tonnes of rice were imported from abroad. Moreover, the price of rice fell by 40 US dollars per tonne in the international market between January and December 2018. What is the reason that the price of rice rises in the local market against the fall in the international market?
In a seminar last Saturday, commerce minister Tipu Munshi touched upon the matter. He said, “The price of rice went up suddenly soon after the formation of the new government. I held meetings with the food minister and rice traders. I came to know that four to five top traders control the price of rice. They manipulate the market and the common people are affected.”
The commerce minister revealed nothing new. This is an old complaint. The rice traders content that top rice mill owners control the price of rice, Prothom Alo quoted in a report this January.
The commerce minister said four to five top traders control the price of rice. The question is, what steps would be taken to stop the unjustified and unethical profit-mongering by some greedy traders? In the seminar on Saturday, commerce minister Tipu Munshi didn’t give indication of any action against this rice price hike.
He, however, called upon the tariff commission to take effective steps so that the traders cannot manipulate the rice price. We think that is not enough. We hope that the government would take stringent measures to permanently stop the manipulation of rice market by the top traders.