The government has directed the local administration to strengthen market monitoring and surveillance to control skyrocketing prices of essential commodities, including onion, potato and egg, as the common people are struggling to cope with the rising costs of living amid inflationary pressure.
The Ministry of Commerce gave the directive at a virtual meeting with all divisional commissioners and deputy commissioners (DCs) on Tuesday as government measures have apparently failed to deter unscrupulous traders from selling essentials at inflated prices.
Although the government fixed prices of onion, egg and potato five days ago to give people some relief, traders are not following the fixed chart. Instead, they are selling these products at previous high prices.
“We held a virtual meeting with all divisional commissioners and DCs to control prices of commodities, including potato, egg and onion,” AHM Shafiquzzaman, director general of the Directorate of National Consumer Rights Protection (DNCRP), told the Daily Sun.
Commerce Secretary Tapan Kanti Ghosh and a representative of the Cabinet Division were connected to the meeting along with the DNCRP chief.
The meeting with the district administration was held at a time when the government eyes to step up market monitoring as part of its efforts to stabilise the volatile commodity market.
In August, the food inflation soared to 12.54 percent — the highest since October 2011 when it had stood at 12.82 percent, according to Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS).
The DNCRP chief said the Ministry of Commerce directed the divisional commissioners and DCs to remain vigil to keep the prices of essentials under a tolerable level.
They were especially asked to keep cold storages in their respective areas under surveillance so that the price of potatoes cannot be manipulated.
“We want a stronger role of the local administration to control prices of essential commodities. For example, Faridpur is important to us to keep the supply chain of onion active. The DCs agree to cooperate with the ministry regarding this,” Shafiquzzaman said.
The government has already allowed four agencies to import 40 million eggs to rein in its price.
Prices of commodities continue to rise in the country prices, making the low and middle-income people feel the squeeze.
The people with limited income are now struggling to cope with the increased costs of living due to the frequent hikes in prices of essential commodities.
The food inflation rate hit the double digit of 12.54 percent in August 2023 against 9.76 percent in July, according to the BBS. It was 9.9 percent in August and 8.19 percent in July last year.
Prices of most of the commodities, including onion, potatoes, egg, meat, fish garlic, ginger, lentils, sugar, edible oil, green chilli and cumin, increased by many folds in the country though those got cheaper in the international market.
Earlier on Thursday, Commerce Minister Tipu Munshi hinted at involving district administration to step up market oversight after putting the price cap on essential food items –potato, onion and egg.
The potato price skyrocketed to Tk 50 per kg while that of eggs crossed Tk 150 per dozen and onion price hit Tk 90-95 per kg.
Planning Minister MA Mannan also blamed high prices of chicken and eggs for the record food inflation in the month of August.
The Ministry of Commerce on September 14 set the retail price of potato at Tk 35-36 per kg (Tk-26-27 at cold storage), local onion at Tk 64-65 per kg and per piece egg at Tk 12.
While announcing the price ceilings, Tipu Munshi also warned that the government would allow egg import and sell potatoes from the cold storages if their prices would not come down to the set prices.
But the price cap and warning for market drive by the DNCRP and district administration worked little for cutting prices of the three essential food items with the government set level.