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Is there a salt crisis?

  • Published at 12:49 am November 20th, 2019
A traditional salt maker harvesting salt from a salt evaporation pond in Kutubdia, Cox’s Bazar Mahmud Hossain Opu/Dhaka Tribune

Govt refutes rumour, panic buying pushes groceries to run out of stock

Billal Hossain, a resident of West Rampura, Dhaka, rushed to different stores in Rampura and nearby markets to grab some packets of salt on Tuesday, after hearing that like onion, the price of salt had also risen abnormally in the market.

But he could not find any salt in the retail stores nearby, as many consumers like him had rushed to the markets earlier in the day, having learnt of the same “news” on social media.

“Then I came to Rampura market, only to find that they have run out of stock here as well,” Billal added.

Alam, a service holder, was one of the lucky few, who was able to buy 4kg of salt from Karwan Bazar amid the rush.

As the day progressed, both Billal and Alam came to learn that the “news” of salt price hike was just a rumour.

They are among thousands of people across Bangladesh who rushed to the markets to stock up on salt after hearing the rumour.

This led to retail shops and groceries across Dhaka and the rest of the country running out of salt on Tuesday, according to reports. 

The situation turned so bad that top government officials and ministers had to brief to media, binning the rumours. 

Several government officials said there were sufficient amount of salt in stock across the country and there is no reason for the price hike. 

Police stations under Dhaka Metropolitan Police were instructed to monitor the markets in their respective jurisdiction and stop irregular buying and selling, police sources told Dhaka Tribune. 

Mobile courts constituted by district administrations and law enforcement members raided local markets all across the country, our correspondents reported. 

In 18 districts, 13 traders were sentenced to different jail terms, 18 detained and a number of traders and buyers were fined Tk14.23 lakh for selling salt at higher price, stocking up on salt illegally, buying excessive amount of salt, and fuelling the rumour of price hike on Tuesday

A packet of salt in a grocery shop | Dhaka Tribune

Both police and the district administrations campaigned in Dhaka and other districts to raise awareness among the customers and to ignore the rumour of price hike. 

Speaking to Dhaka Tribune, Narsingdi Superintendent of Police Pralay Kumar Joardar said: “Police are monitoring the markets diligently. Anyone who is found taking advantage of the rumour will be dealt with accordingly.”

No shortage of supply

A section of businesses resorted to rumours to raise salt price, Commerce Minister Tipu Munshi said on Tuesday.

“There is a demand for about 100,000 tons of salt per month, whereas there is a stock of 650,000 tons. There is no reason for salt crisis in the country, nor for a price hike,” he said while addressing a press conference at the ministry.

Instructing the Directorate of National Consumer Rights Protection (DNCRP) director general for market monitoring, the minister asked him to fine and jail offenders when required, to keep the market stable.

Meanwhile, Bangladesh Small and Cottage Industries Corporation (BSCIC) Chairman Md Mostaque Hassan said there is no shortage of salt as the supply is higher than the demand at the moment, reports UNB.

An unholy syndicate is trying to reap benefits by spreading misleading information through online media, he said, asking the consumers not to get confused. 

The BSCIC chairman said the salt stock in the country stoodat 650,000 tons on November 15, and the country saw record salt production in 2018-2019 fiscal year – 1.2 million ton – which was much higher than the target.

Nurul Kabir, president of Bangladesh Salt Mill Owners Association (BSMOA), saida vested quarter was spreading rumours over salt prices to mislead people. 

“At present, there is much more salt than the country needs. Moreover, the locally produced salt will hit the market within 10-15 days. So, there is no chance of a salt crisis,” he told Dhaka Tribune on Tuesday.

A Press Information Department handout, issued on Tuesday, said the government authorities concerned would take strict actions against any attempt to spread rumours over salt prices.

A control room has also been opened at the BSCIC headquarters (Phone: 02-9573505) for all salt-related information.

Meanwhile, the DNCRP has urged people to complain to them directly at 01777753668 or 01624276012 if anyone charges extra price for salt in the market.

Our reporter Arifur Rahman Rabbi, Anwar Hussain and Narsingdi correspondent Asaduzzaman Ripon contributed to this report