Prices of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) have risen by as high as Tk550 per cylinder in the country. It has added to public sufferings caused by already pricey essential commodities.
Suppliers have blamed the price hike of raw materials for LPG in the international market for the increased prices of the fuel in the country.
In Dhaka, the retail prices of LPG, depending on the size of cylinder, rose on Saturday by Tk180-Tk300. Meanwhile in Khulna and Rajshahi, the prices of LPG at the dealer level increased by Tk150 to Tk550. In Chattogram, the price of LPG at the dealer level has increased by at least Tk200. A 13-kg cylinder was selling at the port city on Saturday for Tk1,050.
LPG was getting popularity in different towns because of a scarcity in the supply of pipeline gas. But due to a lack of government control on its price levels, consumers are finding it hard to buy the fuel. Because, suppliers are increasing the prices without any prior announcement.
The LPG market in the country is mainly dominated by private companies as state-owned Bangladesh Petroleum Corporation could supply only 2 percent of the total demand.
Experts said this unusual swelling in the price levels of LPG will hit the poor and low-income people the hardest.
"Poor and middle-income people have been using LPG since the government stopped new pipeline gas connections at residential levels. A sudden price rise of the fuel will put them in a difficult situation," said economist Dr AB Mirza Azizul Islam.
At present, prices of almost all types of commodities have been soaring. Winter vegetables are selling at high prices even in the peak season, while the market of spices, including onion and garlic, remain uncontrolled, he continued.
Mirza Aziz, also a former adviser to the caretaker government, suggested that the government should step in to control prices even if an open market economy does not allow it to do so.
"The government should determine the shortage of any commodity by assessing demand and supply in the market. To meet the deficiency, it should import the product in time which will prevent an abrupt price hike," he added.
Jakaria Jalal, Bashundhara LP Gas Limited's head of sales, said, "The price of LPG in the international market has increased by $132 (around Tk11,220 as of Saturday's exchange rate) per tonne, while the carrying cost increased by $30 (Tk2,500)."
Not only in Bangladesh, the prices of LPG have also increased in other South Asian countries, he added.
Golam Rahman, the chairman of the Consumers Association of Bangladesh, said the country has a shortage in supply of LPG and the companies and their dealers have taken it as an opportunity to raise the price at any time.
"As the sector has been expanding every moment and we are getting dependent on it, the government should determine its maximum retailed price.
Bangladesh Energy Regulatory Commission should monitor prices," he said.
"The commission should coordinate the prices of LPG with those of the international market. Or else, it would not be possible to destroy the syndicate that controls the market," he added.
Meanwhile, our Khulna correspondent reported that the price of LPG at the dealer level has increased by Tk150 to Tk550 in the city.
A 12-kg cylinder was selling on Saturday for Tk1,050. Retailers would add Tk30-Tk50 to the price, causing consumers to pay Tk1,080-Tk1,100 per cylinder. Besides, commercial consumers will have to pay Tk550 more to buy a 45-kg cylinder.
Robiul Islam, a resident from the city's Sheikhpara Main Road area, said prices of daily necessities have already gone up abnormally. "Now, it will be difficult for us to survive if LPG prices keep rising recurrently."
Shayer Ahmed Bitu, the general secretary of Khulna Zilla LP Gas Dealers and Owners Association, claimed they have been buying LPG from the global market in an increased price because the demand for raw materials have risen in the winter season.
"Based on the international market, the companies have set the new prices. However, the prices of LPG will come down in upcoming March-April," he said.
In Rajshahi, the prices of LPG have increased by Tk150 per cylinder.
Rakib Sarkar, a sales representative of Jamuna and Laugfs, said the prices increased from January 1 and the new prices were enforced from the following day.
Dealers and retailers on Saturday said the price of 5.5-kg cylinder of LPG rose by Tk50, while that of a 12-kg cylinder by Tk150 and a 35-kg cylinder by Tk400.
In Bangladesh, annual LPG consumption shot up to 7 lakh tonnes as of now from a paltry 45,000 tonnes in 2009, according to the Energy Division's latest annual report.
The total number of users has increased up to 38 lakh. The sector has built a capacity of supplying 2 million tonnes annually.
Of the total capacity, Bashundhara leads the market with a 24 percent share, followed by Omera and Jamuna with 20 percent and 17 percent respectively.
The rate of LPG usage as a source of cooking fuel has risen from 2.4 percent in 1997 to 19.6 percent in 2017.