The Trading Corporation of Bangladesh (TCB) will sell six products worth more than Tk 1000 crore during the upcoming Ramadan to control the price of essential commodities.
Sources at the commerce ministry said the TCB sells soybean oil, sugar, lentils, chickpeas and dates during Ramadan every year. But it has included onions on its list for this year because there has been an unusual increase in the price of this product in Bangladesh in recent months.
The estimated figure of Tk1,000 crore worth of sales has based on the amount of the six product that the TCB intends to sell, and the current market price of those products.
TCB sells the products for less than the market price.
This year the state-owned trading agency has decided to increase the quantity of products to be sold during Ramadan.
It sold 2,000 to 2,500 tonnes of soybean oil last year, but this year it will increase the amount to 50,000 tonnes of oil.
The commerce ministry said the price of soybean oil increased by Tk8 per litre several days ago, and is now being sold for Tk110-115 per litre. This price hike has put a pressure on consumers, so the TCB will sell more oil this year than in previous years to ease the pressure.
The ministry said there is an annual demand for 20 lakh tonnes of soybean oil in the country, and around 3.5 lakh tonnes of that is required in the month of Ramadan. The TCB will provide 15 percent of the total demand for oil during the month.
The TCB will sell 35,000 tonnes of sugar against the demand of 3 lakh tonnes in Ramadan. Last year it sold only 2,000 tonnes. Currently, the market price of sugar is Tk70-72 per kilogramme.
The ministry said locally grown onions will be available in the market before Ramadan. The government has already asked different business agencies to import 1.5 lakh tonnes of onions. TCB will sell 30,000 tonnes of onion on top of that.
The price of chickpeas increases by Tk15-20 during Ramadan every year. TCB will sell 8,000 tonnes of chickpeas against the demand of 80,000 tonnes during the month to control the price. Last year it sold 1,500 tonnes of chickpeas.
According to the ministry, the Trading Corporation of Bangladesh will sell 3,000 tonnes of lentils and 500 tonnes of dates in Ramadan this year.
Officials of the commerce ministry said the government will strictly monitor the market during Ramadan, and will prevent anybody from destabilising it.
The ministry has already sent an action plan to different government departments, including the Tariff Commission, Directorate of National Consumer Rights Protection, Department of Agricultural Extension and Bangladesh Competition Commission to be prepared for stabilising the Ramadan market.
TCB officials said that they are preparing to buy the products as per the ministry's decision. They said the process of calling tenders for buying the products will start soon.
Md Humayun Kabir, information officer of TCB, said, "We are preparing to sell more products this year than we did last year."
TCB could not buy dates despite calling tenders several times last year. Later it bought some dates from businessmen to sell in the market. However it bought the other items on time.
According to the action plan, the stock of sugar, lentils, and chickpeas at the producer organisations is normal so far. The commerce ministry has called for strict monitoring to prevent irregularities in delivering the products.
The TCB will suggest the sale price of the products based on the action plan. The suggested prices will then be sent to the commerce ministry for approval.
The commerce ministry has directed TCB to expand its capacity by recruiting more dealers for selling the products.
Dr Md Zafar Uddin, secretary of the commerce ministry, told The Business Standard, "We are fully prepared for Ramadan. There is no chance of instability in the market. Every department of the ministry is on alert about this."
In response to a question on the chance of the local market being destabalised by panic over the coronavirus outbreak, he said, "Bangladesh does not do business only with China. We are prepared to face the problem. We have been consulting businessmen about the matter."