Commerce Minister Tipu Munshi has said subsidized products of the state-run Trading Corporation of Bangladesh (TCB) will reach the middle-class through e-commerce businesses.
Speaking at the inauguration of an online shopping programme centering on the Ramadan Monday, the minister said the TCB under the Ministry of Commerce sells essential commodities at fair prices across the country through truck sales. But the sales often face various obstacles in reaching all areas.
However, e-commerce platforms are easily delivering TCB's fair price products to middle class people in the country. "Since the government subsidizes here, we must be careful so that the middle class is not deprived of this opportunity," said Tipu Munshi.
The minister said as the government has succeeded in selling onions in collaboration with e-commerce sites, four more products – edible oil, grams, sugar and pulses – now also join the e-sales.
The commerce minister said the authorities will continue the initiative to keep commodity prices within the reach of the people.
Terming e-commerce facilities as having stemmed from digital Bangladesh – the mantra of the Awami League government – Tipu Munshi said e-commerce has gained popularity in a very short time. Last year, products worth about Tk16,000 crore were traded online.
He said the government has taken steps to make e-commerce manpower efficient and to ensure transparency and accountability so that people can enjoy the benefits of e-businesses.
E-commerce is gaining ever more popularity during the Covid-19 pandemic, noted Tipu Munshi. He cautioned that the authorities should be aware of previous mistakes and prevent their recurrence.
He hoped e-business platforms will be able to gain people's trust and the rising e-commerce sector will soon reach maturity in Bangladesh.
Senior Secretary of the commerce ministry Jafar Uddin said, "We hope companies that are responsible for selling TCB products will prioritise the poor and middle class buyers.
Additional Commerce Secretary and Chief Executive Officer of TCB e-sales AHM Safiquzzaman said people will be able to buy edible oil at Tk108 per litre and sugar, grams and pulses at Tk58 per kg from the sites.
But a buyer in a week will not be allowed to purchase more than five litres of soybean oil and three kgs of other items.
Shomi Kaiser, president of the e-Commerce Association of Bangladesh (E-Cab), said that e-Cab members will work to keep the prices of these products within the reach of the people by utilising earlier online sales experiences.
Zia Ashraf, founder of Chaldal and director of e-Cab, said the sale of onions started in September last year and Chaldal alone has sold 60% of the total online onion sales.
According to TCB sources, the corporation plans to sell 150 tonnes of the products through e-commerce platforms in the first phase, mostly in Dhaka. Outside Dhaka, only four tonnes of products will be sold in Tangail and Sirajganj districts.
The maximum delivery charge in Dhaka will be Tk30. It will be Tk40 in other district headquarters.