Nat’l body on commodity prices


With the prices of daily essentials rising unabatedly, the consumers have got their back to the wall now. Most items, including rice, edible oil, sugar and spices are becoming costlier with the every passing day. In a complete departure from the past tradition even the prices of winter vegetables are unusually high this year. For instance, the supply of pumpkin, which is usually available in abundant numbers during this time of the year, is scanty and its prices are beyond the reach of the common people. While the general consumers are finding it hard to get both ends met under the prevailing circumstances, the government, apparently, is clueless about devising ways and means to rein in the runaway prices.
The government, to be precise, the ministries of food and commerce, for quite sometime, preferred to be onlookers when the prices of some major essentials started rising more than a year back. However, a flurry of activities was noted only on the eve of the holy month of Ramadan. The ministers and high officials of these ministries were found holding meetings with importers and wholesalers of some selected essential items. But the outcome of those meetings virtually had no bearing on the price situation. The fact remains that price situation has turned worse since the last Ramadan. The coarse variety of rice now costs Tk 36 a kilogram at the retail level compared to Tk 30 a kg six months back. More and more poor people are now making long queues before the trucks selling rice under the government’s Open Market Sale (OMS) operation in Dhaka and other urban centres. However, a large segment of the poor and low income people are left with no other option but to buy rice or atta (wheat) at high prices from the normal market since the OMS operations are highly inadequate to meet their demand.
Lately, according to a report published in this daily last Saturday, the ministry of commerce has decided to form a national committee that would be entrusted with the responsibility of fixing the prices, primarily, of sugar and edible oils, the items to be sold through ‘ distributorship’ system, instead of the traditional ‘delivery order’ (DO) system. The authorities concerned have decided to scrap the ‘DO’ system for its being vulnerable to manipulation by the unscrupulous traders. Since the new system is yet to be tested, it would be pre-emptive to make any comment on it. There is no denying that there exist lots of imperfections in the country’s existing marketing mechanism. The latest official move to streamline a part of it involving the private sector might deliver positive results provided the operators concerned are not guided by greed factor and only genuine traders having good track records get distributorship rights. Otherwise, except for a change in the name, the new system might finally prove to be a futile exercise.
But more than anything else, the government needs to be more careful about the food grain prices since more than 60 per cent of the daily income of a poor family is spent on the purchase of rice. The rice prices are going up even after the harvest of Aman, a major rice crop. The arrival of new Boro rice is still months away. Taking the food price situation in the international market into consideration, one has reasons to be concerned. The government has a plan to make available food grains to vulnerable people and its low paid employees. But distributing food at an affordable price among the poor across the country would be really a big ask for the government, in terms of both resources and food stock. So, it would be prudent on the part of the government to maintain its food stocks always at a satisfactory level and convince the traders to behave rationally in difficult times.



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here