DE Online Desk
Food Minister Sadhan Chandra Majumdar on Tuesday accused some corporate houses, millers, wholesalers and retailers of causing price spiral of rice through hoarding and issued a stern note of warning asking them to get prepared to land in jail unless they correct themselves.
“They must languish in jail unless the correct themselves. Slapping of mere fines will not be enough for them . . . corporate houses, millers, wholesalers and retailers can’t evade their responsibility for the price hike of rice,” he told BSS.
Majumdar added the anti-hoarding campaign has already launched to net the culprits as the government is determined to enforce the newly enacted law on illegal food storage, prescribing life term for hoarding as maximum punishment.
The minister said the government is preparing to intensify the nationwide anti-hoarding campaign engaging law enforcement agencies while his ministry already cancelled leaves including weekly holidays of the Food Department officials and staff to enforce the campaign.
“The businessmen must discard their greedy attitude to make extra profits,” he said.
The minister’s comments came days after Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina asked authorities concerned to send to jail the hoarders and market manipulators saying the sudden price-hike of rice and other essentials after the election was a “very abnormal matter”.
Rice market is visibly exposed to instability for the past two weeks with several market analysts attributing the phenomenon to poor vigilance and extreme monopoly of some big businesses prices of most rice varieties are on the rise in the capital and elsewhere.
Director General (DG) of National Consumers Right Protection AHM Shafiquzzaman said as part of the campaign his office would ensure display of wholesale and retail price chart both at wholesale and retailers level. “Every retail outlets must collect and keep cash memos of their purchasing. Joint drives will be conducted against the enlisted rice millers by the food department, local administration and national consumers’ right protection directorate,” he said.
“The country is currently witnessing the peak of aman harvesting when the price spiral is unusual,” said agro-economist Dr Jahangir Alam, currently a director of Dhaka School of Economics.
He said the extreme cold and drizzle partly disrupted the rice supply system while the aman production could be less than the expected output this year due to heavy downpour in northeastern and a series of weak cyclones in the southern coasts. But, Alam said, the “abnormal” price hike could not be justified by these factors and opined that the unscrupulous businessmen including millers and some corporate houses took the opportunity to make extra profits through price fixing and market manipulation.
Agricultural Extension Department (DAE) officials largely echoed Jahangir Alam saying there was no reason for rice price to be soared during this full harvest of transplant aman, the second largest crop after Boro, contributing 38 percent of the total annual rice output.
Rice price started soaring ahead of elections and it continued after the voting as well while officials suspected it to be the outcome of a design by market manipulators.
Retailers said the buying miniket rice price at their level was Taka 2850 per sack of 50-kilogram in the first week of January, the rate rose to Taka 3030 on January 10 and it became Taka 3260 on January 16 and now it stands at Taka 3400. The consumers now need to pay Taka 3600 to 3700 for the same quantum of the miniket rice, the most popular affordable variety to the ordinary middle class people.
The price of coarse rice varieties also increased as well by Taka 250 to 350 per sack during the past month.
Retailer Fazlul Huq of Sabuj Traders at Mirpur section-6 Central Kitchen Market said he sold per kilogram coarse rice was at Taka 40 two weeks ago and was now selling the same rice at Taka 44-45.
DE Online Desk