Trusting the businesspeople was a mistake

Commerce minister says about edible oil crisis

Commerce Minister Tipu Munshi speaks at a press conference held at the commerce ministry in Dhaka today. Photo: Ministry of Commerce

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Believing businesses on oil price hike was a mistake: Munshi

Commerce Minister Tipu Munshi speaks at a press conference held at the commerce ministry in Dhaka today. Photo: Ministry of Commerce

With the government still struggling to bring stability to the volatile edible oil market, Commerce Minister Tipu Munshi yesterday said it was a mistake to trust the businesspeople as they hoarded edible oil and hiked prices abnormally after the Eid-ul-Fitr.

“My mistake is that I trusted them [the businesspeople]. I requested them not to increase prices [of edible oil]… It’s my failure,” the minister said in reply to queries from journalists at a press conference at his Secretariat office.

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Right before the Ramadan, the minister asked the businesspeople not to increase edible oil prices and maintain an uninterrupted supply of the item in the markets during the holy month. He also said the prices would be hiked after the Eid in accordance with the prices in the international market.

About syndicates in edible oil trade, the minister claimed that there were no syndicates at the refiners and millers level.

However, the dealers and thousands of retailers took advantage of the situation and hoarded the item to make hefty profits, Munshi said.

Though the businesspeople didn’t increase edible oil prices during the Ramadan, the millers, refiners, dealers, wholesalers and retailers hoarded the item 10 days before the Eid as they knew the prices would be hiked after the Eid. This caused severe disruption to the supply chain and led to an artificial crisis.

Munshi further said that if necessary, his ministry would seek to engage the Rapid Action Battalion in maintaining a stable supply of edible oil in local markets.

The Trading Corporation of Bangladesh (TCB) will resume sale of bottled soybean oil at Tk 110 a liter from June, he mentioned.

Besides, the open market sale (OMS) of edible oil through trucks will begin across the country in the middle of this month, he added.

Talking to this newspaper yesterday, Ghulam Rahman, president of the Consumers Association of Bangladesh (CAB), said the commerce ministry’s lack of appropriate measures led to the edible oil crisis.

The commerce minister should have been aware that a section of unscrupulous traders might take advantage of the situation as edible oil prices were on the rise over the last few months.

“This happened because appropriate action was not taken timely,” he noted.

Rahman further said the minister relied solely on businesspeople’s commitments, but they didn’t keep their word. The government should have intervened in the edible oil market at the appropriate time.

It should hand out exemplary punishment to those responsible for the artificial crisis so that they don’t dare to do it again, he said.

Meanwhile, a number of consumers told this correspondent that they were grappling with the rising prices of soybean oil that is still in short supply.

Sayed Ali Sheikh, a resident in Mirpur Eastern Housing area, said his family’s consumption of edible oil has come down due to the increase in soybean oil prices.

He said his family of eight has already cut the consumption of vegetable and fish to free up money to buy cooking oil.

The government should revise down the price of edible oil so that people with fixed income can afford it, he added.

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