Historically, it is evident that the level of consumption hikes up during the fasting month of Ramdan every year.
Supply shortage, some being subject to nature and man-made for many goods, coupled with the hike in demand triggered by increased consumption, takes the price of most food products beyond affordability of lower-middle and lower income group of people during Ramadan.
This year, however, in what seems like a lesson from past experiences, private importers have started receiving huge consignment of food item imports with less than a month to go for Ramadan. Already 14 vessels carrying 450,000 tonnes of edible goods have arrived at the Chittagong Port.
Chittagong Port Authority (CPA) is also prioritising the off-loading of these goods with an eye to keep the supply chain smooth during the holy month of fasting. According to CPA sources, of these 14 vessels, five have carried in 199,000 tonnes of sugar, four carried in 53,500 tonnes of edible oil, two carried 59,000 tonnes of yellow peas and three vessels transported 133,000 tonnes of lentils, chickpeas, wheat and soya seeds.
CPA Secretary Syed Farhad Uddin Ahmed said they had been prioritising, in berthing schedule at the port jetties, the vessels carrying those goods whose demands go up during Ramadan. “We are also allowing the containers carrying food for Ramadan, to be off-loaded at the port instead of sending them to the private Inland Container Depots,” he added.
Business sources said generally, the demand for edible oil during Ramadan hovers around 70,000 tonnes. This year, however, a total of 100,000 tonnes of edible oil has already been offloaded in the past 12 days. Port and customs authorities claimed that there would be no shortage in supply of edible oil this Ramadan because there is 49 tonnes of edible oil
According to business sources, there is a demand of 70 thousand tons of edible oil in the country during the month of Ramadan while one lakh tons of oil have already been off-loaded from seven tank terminals in past 12 days. Sources at the port and customs said the tank terminal already had a stock of 49,000 tonnes of oil and another 53,000 tonnes were waiting to be stockpiled from the vessels.
Against the usual Ramadan demand of 150,000 tonnes for sugar, this year nearly 200,000 tonnes are already waiting to be offloaded from the vessels.
Up against the 23,000 tonnes imported before Ramadan last year, a total of 61,000 tonnes of lentil had already been imported in the last five months. Sources also said that the import volume of chickpeas this year was more than twice the demand – 154,000 tonnes imported against a Ramadan-time demand of 70,000 tonnes.
Abdus Samad, Vice Chairman of S Alam Group, a leading importer of edible goods, said there was no apprehension of supply shortfall of sugar and edible oil during this Ramadan because these goods had been imported in sufficient volumes. “Prices of sugar and edible oil are also stable in the international market. Therefore, there is very little chance that the prices would hike,” he added.
Nurul Alam, Director of Chittagong Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce and Industry and a leading importer, said they had imported more lentils, chickpeas and yellow peas this year than is demanded. “Prices of these goods will remain stable during Ramadan,” he affirmed.
Importers have, however, cut down the import of dates this year because consumption hit hard last year by fears that they might have been treated with harmful chemicals like formalin. According to port and customs sources, 7,000 tonnes of dates have been imported during the first five months of this year. The figure was 23,000 tonnes during the same period last year.
Mahabub Alam, President of Chittagong Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said the imported raw sugar and crude edible oil would first be refined and then hit the market just before Ramadan. “We have a meeting scheduled with importers on Saturday . We will urge them to import more sugar and edible oil, as demands for these goods sometimes fluctuate,” he said, adding that import of lentils, chickpeas and yellow peas were much higher compared to demand.