Prices of essential commodities remain high in Bangladesh despite a falling trend in the global market, mainly due to "fowl practices" by unscrupulous traders who hold consumers hostages.
According to World Bank data, commodity prices have declined globally over the last three years. The price of sugar has eased by 23 per cent since May this year while price of rice has fallen 14 per cent, wheat 18 per cent, edible oil 9 per cent, and maize 6 per cent in the same period. But prices of those essentials in local market defied the global lead and remained high.
By contrast, market research revealed when prices go down in international market, traders in Bangladesh raise them "manifold" for no valid reason, whatsoever.
Consumers and experts blame it on insatiable lust for profit by the dishonest businessmen.
Bangladesh Tariff Commission (BTC) sources said, per liter edible oil price should be Tk 82 now, but it is selling from Tk 93 to Tk 100 in domestic market. On the other hand, the price of loose edible oil should be Tk 67 but it is selling from Tk 80 Tk 85 in the markets across Bangladesh. Similarly, the present market prices of palm oil and sugar are also high.
When asked the reason behind continuing high prices of essentials, President of Moulavibazar Businessmen's Association Abdur Razzak said, "By making syndicates importers are increasing the prices. This is why Bangladesh consumers are not getting the benefit despite prices falling in the international market."
Regarding this, economist Dr Ahsan H Mansur said, "One of the main reasons behind the prices not coming down is the price of fuel oil." "Inefficiency of Bangladesh Petroleum Corporation (BPC) needs to be removed and its monopoly should be broken," he suggested.
Another leading economist Mamunur Rashid said prices of essentials are not coming down for lack of farsightedness of the business operators and unhealthy competition for making excessive profit.
To keep the prices of essentials stable, he advised the government to be more careful. Strict vigilance is necessary in this regard to bridle the lust of dishonest traders, he added.
According to the IMF report, compared with 2011 the prices of all essentials in 2014 had come down. In 2010 the price of rice per tonne was US$520 and in 2011 it rose to $551 per tonne. But in November 2014 the price came down to $419 per tonne.
Similarly, in the international market the price of soybean oil rose from $924 per tonne in 2010 to $1,215 in 2011 and it came down to $721 in November 2014. The price of palm oil per tonne rose from $860 in 2010 to $1,076 in 2011, in November 2014 it slid back to $662 a tonne.
Besides, the price of wheat per tonne came down from $316 in 2011 to $258 in November 2014. The price of sugar per tonne declined from $577.4 per tonne in 2011 to $350.4 per tonne in November last year.
Other than food items, iron ore that was sold at $167 per tonne in November 2011 dwindled to $73 in corresponding period of 2014 - while cotton that was sold for 103.5 cents per pound in 2010 also fell to 89 cents per pound now.
Although prices of sugar, soybean and palm oil have been adjusted a little in the local market, the prices of rice and flour have not come down in Bangladesh. Also, there is no impact on the price of iron ore in local market though it fell in the international market.
Commerce Secretary Hedayetullah Al-Mamun, however, said, "International market price is being followed. Prices of some commodities have come down by now. Decision will be taken on others after considering everything."
Consumers Association of Bangladesh (CAB) President Golam Rahman said, "A few importers control consumers' market in the country. This is why although prices decrease in the international market they tend to defy the trend in our local market."
Bangladesh's overall imports fell further in May due to lower prices of essential commodities including fuel oil in the global market, officials said.
Opening of letters of credit (LCs) against imports, generally known as import orders, decreased by 9.56 per cent to $3.47 billion in May 2015 from $3.84 billion in the same month of the previous calendar year.
On the other hand, the settlement of LCs, generally known as actual imports, dropped by more than 6.0 per cent to $3.05 billion during the period under review from $3.26 billion in the corresponding period in the previous year.
"The imports, in value terms, decreased further during the period under review mainly due to lower prices of petroleum products on the global market," a senior official of Bangladesh Bank (BB) said.
He also said overall imports normally decrease in the months of April and May before the national budget.
The actual import of fuel oils dropped by 46.57 per cent to $250.47 million in May last from $468.78 million in the same month of the last calendar year, the BB data showed.
The BB official also said import of different essential items, including scrap vessels and capital machinery decreased during the period under review.