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Monday, 05 June 2023
Fire in the kitchen market, consumers' plight need to be relief

Fire in the kitchen market, consumers' plight need to be relief


By Md. Zillur Rahaman

People's lives are already mundane with rising commodity prices. The rise in oil prices since the start of the war in Ukraine last year by Russia has added a new dimension to it. Due to the hike in transportation and production costs, there has been an opportunity for price hikes.

Starting from rice, pulses, edible oil, cooking gas, onions, potatoes, sugar, vegetables, there is no commodity in the market, the prices of which are not increasing by leaps and bounds. There is no denying, our standard of living has improved, income has also jumped.

But the uncontrolled and unbridled rise in commodity prices is making people's lives really miserable. Consumers are wary of the fire prices in the market, especially the low-income people, who are spending all their income to buy minimum food items for survival. They don't have money to spend on health, treatment, education etc. The long line of consumers in front of the TCB car shows how helpless they are with the price! They can neither say, nor can tolerate!

The price of daily necessities has increased several times more than the rate at which income has increased. One reason is that there is no effective control of the concerned authorities over the market. No market monitoring, supervision and remedial action accordingly.

The poor, retired civil servants, senior citizens and low-income marginals are the worst affected by rising commodity prices. Most of the elderly are in the most difficult situations. They are not the dead of the house, nor the dead of the ghat. The situation is even worse for the employees who have spent their working life honestly. Because their saving pension or gratuity money during working life is the only asset. They have bought savings bonds with the money saved at the end of life. They have to complete their family life with the profit money of this savings card. As if to pour water on a drowned mouse or the drought blow on death!

In fact, the government is completely silent about the increase in commodity prices. Syndicated traders are raising the prices of daily necessities on various pretexts and putting the common man in trouble. This extreme fact has also been admitted by a state minister of the government. Once the price of a commodity increases, it does not decrease. Even though various government organizations are working in this regard, they are not playing an effective role, so the price of goods is not coming under control.

There is an organization called Consumers Association of Bangladesh (CAB), but their activities are also not so noticeable. Although it is established to protect the rights of the consumers, how much they actually protect the rights of the consumers is a matter of public opinion. Their activities are very doubtful. Apart from this, it is observed that many exporters are exporting various types of products including vegetables to foreign countries without meeting the needs of the country in the hope of extra profit and the government is not monitoring the matter.

Economists consider inflation as the biggest foe of the economy. Because inflation reduces people's purchasing power, increases the suffering of middle and lower income people and makes the living standards of consumers miserable. People once plunged into despair and social unrest increased. Consumer price inflation has also outstripped inflationary volatility. But the recent increase in prices of onion, potato, sugar, edible oil, gas has surpassed all previous records. Onion prices have almost doubled per kg in the wholesale market.

Onions aren't the only ones hitting the market. After onion, potatoes, sugar, oil, gas are also spreading heat. A kg of onion is 75 taka, potato 35-40 taka, sugar 140 taka, vegetable market is also on fire. The common consumer is burning in the fire of commodity prices.

Rising commodity prices make people of limited income miserable. Farmers are also not getting fair price. The middlemen and syndicates are profiting from this. Their violence is so rampant that they hold retail traders and consumers in their hands hostage. No matter how much the government says they are controlling the market, in reality it seems that the syndicates are controlling the government. What the government is doing is nothing but a drama! In fact, the government has no control over commodity prices. Farmers do not get fair price for producing other crops including onion, hence they lose motivation. If the government had given fair prices and incentives to the farmers, the price hike would not have been so much.

At present, the price of every essential commodity such as rice, oil, onion, potato, sugar, vegetables etc. is increasing. Businessmen give one excuse after another as the reason for the increase in the price of each commodity and the government joins them in unison. However, there are some products whose prices rise even when there is no shortage in supply. Moreover, if you pay extra money, there is no product which is not available in the market, that is, a group of crooked syndicates are shaking the handle from behind and common people are paying for it. Their pockets are cut daily, but there is no one to watch, the consumers are silent and extremely helpless.

Due to the increase in the price of fuel oil, the cost of production, transport-rent, medical and education sector has increased. The price of public and private services is also increasing. People's income is not increasing at the rate at which commodity prices are increasing. The relationship between commodity prices and lifestyle is very close. How a family conducts their daily life depends on their income, needs and commodity prices.

When the price of every necessary commodity is at a tolerable level and within the purchasing power of the common people, they lead a comfortable life. On the other hand, when the prices of daily necessities become disproportionate to the financial compatibility of the common man, unrest begins in the poor and ultra-poor households. Therefore, due to the increase in commodity prices, on the one hand, the black shadow of suffering descends on public life. On the other hand, there is a chaotic situation in the country due to profiteers and black marketeers.

Due to the rise in commodity prices, no commodity is currently available at a fair price. Every product is like a fire of higher value. But this was not the case even a decade or two ago. People used to live as best they could. During Shaista Khan's period, the story of eight maunds of rice for money is like a fairy tale of the time. Even during the British rule, the country's commodity prices were under control. After the partition of the country in 1947, the condition of the country changed drastically, but the price of the goods was within the reach of the common people. Food security is closely related to social security. Lately it is heard that some people are getting involved in criminal activities out of the urge to survive, which is a very worrying picture.

To prevent the increase in commodity prices, first of all political stability, transparency and accountability must be ensured. If illegal smuggling and hoarding can be stopped, the price of goods will not increase. Bangladesh's agrarian society needs to increase agricultural production and ensure fair prices for produce. In this case, scientific method of cultivation, improved seeds, abundant fertilizers and irrigation system should be coordinated to get the best yield from the agricultural land.

If the production of agricultural products increases, the prices will remain stable. The government should have strict control over the market. Strict punishment should be imposed against the profiteers. Supply of products should be fixed by modernizing and starting production of the closed down factories of the country. Unbridled corruption in the country must be ended. The most important thing is that all the people of the country should be motivated by patriotism and devote themselves to the welfare of the country.

Low-income people face the greatest loss and hardship due to the increase in commodity prices. Therefore, to protect their interests, the supply of daily necessities must be ensured.

The government should have full control over the market. The people of the country should also strive so that the unscrupulous businessman cannot hike the price of the currency as he wishes. It should be remembered that profiteering is the main obstacle in the way of development of society. Therefore, to keep the wheels of the economy moving, the increase in commodity prices must be controlled.

We hope that swift action will be taken against all visible and invisible syndicates. The right to live well and security of the common and low-income people will be ensured. At present, onion is not the only one that is making waves in the market. Along with onion, potatoes, sugar, oil, gas are also spreading heat. These should be reduced to give relief to the consumers and the government should take action accordingly.

The writer is a, Banker and Columnist

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