Mobile courts nab dishonest traders
Salt went out of stock in most of the retail shops and groceries across the country, including those in the capital, on Tuesday as people got panicked over a rumour that its price would go up beyond purchasing capacity.
Traders and shopkeepers at different super shops, retail stores and kitchen markets said mad rush started during midday as customers stormed in to buy salt, an essential cooking ingredient.
Shopkeepers and customers said that after the recent price hike of onions there was a lack of confidence among people which led them to panic buying of salts.
Salt prices ranged between Tk35 and Tk40 in different places in the capital.
“A large number of people started coming during midday and queued up in front of the shop. All my 50 kg stock of salt sold out within 10 minutes,” Sikander Bapari, a shop owner at Rampura kitchen market, told Dhaka Tribune on Tuesrday.
Another trader, Ruhul Amin, at the same market, said his stock of 150 kg salt sold out within an hour.
“We are surprised as we have never seen such jostling for salt. We are now out of stock and still customers keep coming. This is unprecedented,” he said.
At Karwan Bazar, salt was sold in open trucks by a section of traders as consumers and retailers from different areas in the city were crowding the wholesale hub.
Alam, a service holder, rushed to Karwan Bazar to buy salt hearing rumour of impending salt crisis with soaring prices.
“I have heard that the price of salt would shoot up abnormally. So, I bought the essential cooking item in advance as recently the same thing happened with onion prices,” he said while holding four salt packets, each weighing one kg.
Billal Hossain, a resident from Ulon, told Dhaka Tribune that he failed to find salt in Rampura area and its nearby markets.
“I could not find salt in my neighbouring retail stores. Then I came to Rampura market only to find salt sold out here also,” he said.
Police were seen inspecting retail shops across the city to control the salt prices, and check irregularities, if any.
In Panthapath area, police were seen standing in front of different shops and asking customers about their purchases and prices.
Visiting several super shops in the capital, Dhaka Tribune found no salt stock at outlets of Agora, Shwapno and Nandan on Dhanmondi 27(old) road.
A salesman at Agora Dhanmondi outlet said: “We sold 200kg salt in only five minutes. Now we have no salt in our stock.”
Nandan Dhanmondi outlet was also out of stock of salt on Tuesday evening. The outlet sold 200kg salt till noon. Generally, they sell only 25kg to 30kg a day.
Rokea Sultana, a private job holder, told Dhaka Tribune: “I have heard that the price of salt will increase abnormally as that of onion. So I have planned to buy two kg salt as the price is still affordable now.”
According to Bangladesh Small and Cottage Industries Corporation (BSCIC), salt stock in the country was 6.50 lakh tons on November 15 and the country saw record salt production in 2018-2019 fiscal year - 12.24 lakh tons - which was much higher than the target.
BSCIC Chairman Md Mostaque Hassan told reporters that there was no shortage of salt in the country and a vested quarter was spreading rumours with evil intentions.
In Gopalganj, consumers were seen rushing to grocery shops to buy salts following a price hike rumour that salt price might shoot to Tk200 a kg soon. Visiting the local Ghaggar market, our correspondent found around hundred people standing in queues to buy salt yesterday.
In Gaibandha, similar scene was seen at different markets where the sales of salts went through the roof in a short period of time. Many grocers took the opportunity of rising demand, and sold salt at Tk35-40 a kg which was Tk30 a day ago.
In Habiganj, mobile courts conducted drives on Tuesday to detain traders who hiked the price following similar rumours that spread across the area on Monday night. Four traders were detained and fined during the drive, led by Executive Magistrate Yasir Arafat Rana.
In Hili, a mobile court on Tuesday fined four grocers Tk1 lakh for selling salt at higher prices. Meanwhile, believing rumours of price hike, commoners were seen rushing to markets to buy salts.
In Netrakona's Khaliajuri upazila, police detained a dishonest businessman, Haidar Chowdhury, for allegedly spreading rumours of salt price hike. Meanwhile, many people were seen buying additional amount of salt.
In Dinajpur, huge crowds were seen at different grocery shops to buy salt to avoid the rumoured price hike. Taking advantage of the situation, some retailers reportedly sold salt at Tk35-70 a kg.
In Panchagarh, people from remote areas were seen flocking to stores to buy salt. As a result, grocery shops were out of salt by noon. Many people were seen buying up to 10kg of salt in fear of price hike.
In Sylhet, the mad rush for salt turned worse after rumours spread through social media. People were seen standing in long queues in front of local stores to buy salt.
To contain the situation, district administration held an urgent meeting with local businesspeople around 3:00pm on Tuesday. District administration said a vested quarter spread the rumour.
In Tangail, the salt market turned volatile following the rumours of price hike. Buyers thronged local shops while some vendors hiked the price by Tk5-10 a kg taking advantage of the circumstance.
Similar situation was reported by our correspondents in Nilphamari, Bogra, Moulvibazar and Sunamganj districts.