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Tofail: Business community was helpful during current onion crisis

  • Published at 10:16 pm December 1st, 2019
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File photo of Tofail Ahmed Dhaka Tribune

He also said there was nothing called market syndication behind price hike of commodities rather the businessmen were friends of the government

Chairman of Parliamentary Standing Committee on Ministry of Commerce Tofail Ahmed on Sunday said it was not the responsibility of the government to determine the prices of essential commodities in an open market economy.

He also said there was nothing called market syndication behind price hike of commodities rather the businessmen were friends of the government.

“You (journalists) are claiming that essential commodity and vegetable prices are high, but how can the government control the prices? In an open market economy it is not the duty of the government, rather the demand-supply situation set the prices,” Tofail, also a former commerce minister, told reporters at a briefing after the standing committee meeting at Parliament Media Centre.

He said the business community was rather helpful during the current crisis of onion price hike.

“I don’t think there is anything called syndicate. The business people are our friends and contributed a lot during recent price hike of onion,” he said.

He also said large importers like Meghna Group, City Group and S Alam Group had not made any profit from their recent onion imports.

“They sold those to the government at cost prices. Also local growers have to pay in different spots during transportation to city markets that contribute to price hike,” he said.

Tofail said the commerce ministry would sit with the large importers, middlemen, Bangladesh Bank, National Board of Revenue next week to discuss the commodity price situation during the forthcoming Ramadan in April next year.

“We will learn about the demand and the production capacity of different commodities. After that we would set the import target. As the import takes a long time, we are working fast to stabilize the price before the Ramadan,” he said.

He said the sudden ban on onion export by India was a major reason of onion price hike along with the recent Cyclone Bulbul and transport strike by truckers.

“The onion production in India was less and they stopped export on September 29. We are 90% dependent on Indian onion. Now we have learned our lesson and are diversifying the import markets,” he said.

Commerce Minister Tipu Munshi said the government was  trying to import onion from Egypt but it took about two months to reach in the country

“It is not sure when the price would come down but we are hoping by the end of December things would be normal. On an average the demand of onion is one lakh ton each month from September to December period,” he said.

He said the long-term solution to the problem was to increase local production capacity.

‘We produce 60% of the total onion demand and rest 40% we import. It was unwise to import from one single country,” he said.

He also said currently the Trading Corporation of Bangladesh was selling onion at Tk 43-45 per kg while the landing cost was Tk 36.

“After the landing there is a cost of offloading the goods and transportation,’ he added.