The Directorate of National Consumer Rights Protection (DNCRP) on Monday said that for strategic reasons it did not go against edible oil refiners, even after they were found involved in manipulating the essential item in the market by creating an artificial supply crunch during last Eid-ul-Fitr.
"Doing so could lead the price of soybean oil to Tk500 a litre," said AHM Safiquzzaman, director-general of the directorate, while addressing a seminar at the Dhaka Reporters Unity in the capital.
Only six to seven refiners are supplying soybean oil to the country's market. "They also had some issues regarding the edible oil crisis during Eid, but we could not take any action against those," he added. "Action cannot be taken all the time. Sometimes, different strategies need to be applied."
"Later, when we sat down with traders, they got into a blame game among themselves, but we found problems with everyone," the director-general said.
Unrest appeared in the country's edible oil market before the last Ramadan as Indonesia, one of the major suppliers of edible oil, imposed a ban on palm oil export. Traders then pressured the government to raise prices, but it did not allow them to do so, which prompted them to cut supply of the cooking item.
Consumers then had to pay as much as Tk200 for a litre of soybean oil, while the government-fixed rate was Tk160 only.
After Eid, the commerce ministry allowed traders to raise the oil price. The supply of oil then miraculously began to increase. Observing the situation, Commerce Minister Tipu Munshi expressed his regrets and said, "I trusted the traders, but they have broken their commitment."
Meanwhile, the DNCRP started a nationwide raid and millions of litres of oil were found in warehouses of different level traders. Mentioning hoarding as one of the key causes behind the price hike, Safiquzzaman said, "When the price of soybean oil goes up, new-priced oil comes to the market in a day. But when the price goes down, it takes a long time to come to the market."
On rice, the DNCRP director-general said there was no reason behind the price hikes of rice during the Boro season. "But in just 10 days, it increased by Tk300 per maund. We started an investigation and found some people, who did not even have licences, stockpiling hundreds of tonnes of paddy."
Mentioning that trade associations of different commodities markets are not cooperating with them in market monitoring, he said the members of the market committees are involved in hoarding. "They want us to inform them about the raids before the operation."
"If the market committees work properly, the DNCRP does not need to conduct raids," added Safiquzzaman, and called for their cooperation.
Dhaka Reporters Unity President Nazrul Islam Mithu and General-Secretary Nurul Islam Hasib were present on the occasion.