Recent research shows that onion prices can be reduced by 23 percent if cartels and syndicates in the market can be tackled and clamped down on. Such views, expressed by speakers at a seminar on Thursday at the auditorium of the Trading Corporation of Bangladesh (TCB), were focused on the significance of fair competition among traders.
The seminar, titled "Byabshai o kretar shartho shongrokkhone bajare shusthu protijogita nishchito karon" – Ensuring healthy competition in market to protect interests of businessmen and buyers – was organised by the Bangladesh Competition Commission.
Commerce Minister Tipu Munshi was present on the occasion as the chief guest, while former Mohammed Farashuddin, former governor of Bangladesh Bank, presented the keynote paper.
The speakers noted that internal growth increases by 2-3 percent more in countries where the competition factor is in effect.
Currently, as many as 130 countries have competition commissions aimed at building competitive markets, increasing investment, making new innovations, creating employment, eliminating poverty and facilitating consumers.
In his remarks, the commerce minister said that competition among traders can result in benefits for both traders and consumers. However, he warned that ugly competition causes suffering for consumers and should be stopped.
Pointing the finger at onion traders for the hike in prices of the bulb, Tipu Munshi said the price of the cooking ingredient doubled on the evening of September 29 after India imposed a ban on its onion export.
Traders took advantage of the situation and quickly caused a price hike, the minister said.
He urged the competition commission to fix a price for onions that is fair to both producers and consumers. He urged traders to prevent the growth and operations of syndicates in the market.
"Competition is a must but it must be fair. Recently, we have witnessed some ugly competition among traders. If we succeed in promoting fair competition, it will definitely help our economy to flourish," the minister said.
Claiming that onion supply has been increased in Bangladesh, he said, "Yesterday, I saw one-fourth of the crowd in front of the TCB trucks compared to what I saw 3-4 days ago".
To ease the market, the minister said, "Excluding other costs, we are paying Tk150 as airfare for importing each kilogram of onion. Despite the additional expense, we are still importing onions by air," the minister said.
The former governor of Bangladesh Bank, Mohammed Farashuddin, urged the Bangladesh Competition Commission to prepare a database on price fluctuations in the market and to take steps to create a congenial environment for general people as also apply proper rules and regulations to ensure fair prices for farmers.
Md Mofizul Islam, chairman of the Bangladesh Competition Commission, said, "We will investigate whether or not the recent crisis was part of a plot."