Prices of all types of loose edible oil have gone up by at least TK5-6 per litre in the country's largest wholesale market Khatunganj of Chattogram over the last two weeks, for which importers blamed the recent "volatile global market".
On the other hand, wholesalers said the hikes are a result of importers' greed, as they had raised the prices before the oil shipments with the new rate arrived.
Usually, import shipments take 2-3 months to arrive.
However, the commerce ministry, which has been fixing retail prices of the oil, has no word about wholesale prices.
Visiting the Khatunganj market on Sunday, a maund (40.90 litres) of palm oil was found selling at around Tk5,100, which was Tk4,850 two weeks ago – meaning a Tk6.11 hike per litre.
Besides, per maund of super palm oil sold at Tk5,300, up from Tk5,100. Most-consumed soybean oil was found selling at Tk5,570 per maund at the wholesale market on the day, up by Tk120 from Tk5,450 two weeks earlier.
Several conglomerates including TK Group, S Alam Group, City Group, Meghna Group, and Bashundhara Group are controlling the loose oil market.
"Malaysia, the main supplier of palm oil, has now increased the price of a maund of oil to 5,200 ringgits from 4800 ringgits," Mohammad Alamgir Parvez, an importer at the market, told this correspondent.
Other suppliers of edible oil increased the prices in similar ways. For example, the USA raised the soybean price to $1,400 per tonnes recently from the earlier $1,320, he added.
When asked about the early price hike before the high-cost oil's arrival, Tariq Ahmed, director (operation) at TK Group said, "The prices of edible oil and other import-dependent essential commodities not only depend on booking prices but also existing market demand and supply."
"The oil prices increased in the international market over the last month. Besides, a surge in freight rates over the last few months was another reason," he added.
However, wholesalers at Khatunganj claimed the price hikes were the result of importers' greed. They (importers) can make high profits in a short time with the essential commodity.
"Edible oil price in the international market increased, it is true. But, our importers raised it disproportionately high," said Leyakat Ali, proprietor of Azmir Traders, adding that it was very "irrational".
Many other wholesalers also said the same. They further added that the importers tactfully had been convincing the ministry concerned to fix the retail prices higher, so that they (importers) can get space to push the prices further with a gradual hike in wholesale prices.
On such a proposal from traders to increase the retail price of edible oil again, the commerce ministry on 6 January decided not to hike it right now.
It said it would finalise an integrated and uniform pricing system soon after scrutinising the edible oil prices.