As the price of onions shot up during October-November last year, the government policymakers had assured that the crisis was temporary. They assured us that the price would decrease once the staple vegetable was imported from abroad and the onion season started. Onions were, actually, imported in tonnes from several countries, but the prices did not come down. Local onions are now being sold at Tk 140 and the imported ones at Tk 130-140. The huge Turkish and Egyptian onions are being sold at Tk 80-100. The situation has warranted people to reduce the use of the traditional kitchen item.
When the use of spices or onions can be decreased there is hardly any scope to decrease the usage of rice, oil or lentils. Prothom Alo on Thursday published a report titled 'One has to cook without spices'. The price of not only spice but every product is high in the market. Mini-cut rice sells at Tk 48-54 per kilogram when moderate BR-28 rice sells at Tk 38-44 and the price for coarse rice and Najirshail is respectively Tk 32-35 and Tk 48-60. A few days ago, mini-cut rice was sold at Tk 45-48 while moderate BR-28 at Tk 35-40.
According to concerned people, a government announcement contributed to the rice price hike. Without assessing how much rice could be exported after meeting the internal demand, the government had declared a 15 per cent incentive on rice export. Though exporters in Bangladesh get many incentives, producers hardly get any. It cannot be said that a hike in the price of rice can ensure that the farmers are getting the fair price of the product. The government must be aware that rice production is dependent on climate and weather. There is no doubt that the common buyers have to pay extra for rice whether the staple food item is exported or not.
The prices of soybean and palm oil have increased too. Non-branded soybean oil is being sold at Tk 95-100 per litre which was sold at Tk 90 in the past week while palm oil is being sold at Tk 80-85. The price of eggs too has shot up by Tk 10 per dozen. This means prices of every essential including spice have increased.
The retailers blame the wholesalers for the price hike while the wholesalers blame the importers. Whom will the common buyers and consumers blame? Sometimes it is seen that the price of imported goods has increased only by Tk 1 while traders sell it on an extra price of Tk 3 at the markets. They do not decrease the price of any imported commodity when its price goes down and simply hides the fact. The import market here is controlled by big business syndicates who increase prices as per their wish. They are so powerful that the government itself seems helpless.
People with a low and fixed income fall victim to the increased prices of essentials most. It becomes hard for them to meet the demand of food. If the government fails to control the market, it should at least monitor it.