4 ministers, other govt officials to meet Sunday to tackle rising commodity prices

Decisions may be made to take action against manipulators influencing the prices of crucial commodities such as rice, flour, oil, sugar, potatoes, onions, beef, eggs, and poultry products

In an effort to curb rising commodity prices and ensure the availability of essential goods before Ramadan, a high-level government meeting is scheduled for Sunday.

The first-of-its-kind meeting will bring together key officials, including four ministers, to explore strategies to prevent manipulation and streamline the import of essential goods, according to sources at the Ministry of Commerce.

The agenda includes analysing the production and import status of various products in relation to demand to identify potential shortages. The aim is to facilitate smoother imports to address shortages before the onset of Ramadan. Coordinated efforts to control inflation will involve aligning monetary and fiscal policies, they said.

Decisions may be made to take action against manipulators influencing the prices of crucial commodities such as rice, flour, oil, sugar, potatoes, onions, beef, eggs, and poultry products.

Finance Minister Abul Hassan Mahmood Ali will chair the meeting, with attendance from Agriculture Minister Abdus Shahid, Food Minister Sadhan Chandra Majumder, Fisheries and Livestock Minister Mohammad Abdur Rahman, State Minister for Commerce Ahsanul Islam Titu, Bangladesh Bank Governor Abdul Rouf Talukder, and secretaries from relevant ministries.

State Minister for Commerce Ahsanul Islam Titu told The Business Standard that controlling commodity prices aligns with the Awami League’s top priority in its election manifesto. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has directed the Cabinet to take decisive action against hoarders and manipulators to maintain purchasing power for the public.

He shared ongoing efforts, saying, “We have started working on controlling commodity prices as a team, keeping in regular contact with the finance minister, agriculture minister, food minister, and fisheries and livestock minister.”

Ahsanul Islam Titu revealed that the LC (Letter of Credit) margin has been waived for importing eight essential commodities, and the central bank is committed to providing the necessary funds for importing these goods before Ramadan.

Sharing an incident from his recent interaction with wholesale rice traders, the state minister highlighted a disruption in rice supply during the election, leading to an increase in market prices.

He assured that strict action would be taken against hoarders and manipulators, even resorting to alternative laws if necessary. He also urged businessmen to avoid taking such risks.

According to the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics, the overall inflation rate was 9.41% in December last year, with food inflation at 9.58%. The Ministry of Finance aims to reduce the point-to-point inflation rate to 6% by June.

Officials from the Ministry of Finance and Commerce anticipate that Sunday’s meeting will focus on determining actual production and demand statistics for essential commodities. Despite higher production and imports, shortages are observed in the market, prompting a need for accurate statistics to address the imbalance.

Efforts will extend beyond the Ministry of Commerce, with plans to activate organisations under the Ministries of Agriculture, Food, and Fisheries and Livestock to monitor and control the market. These organisations will regularly identify hoarders and manipulators, taking necessary actions against them.

Acknowledging past challenges, the government is committed to improving inter-ministerial and interagency coordination to avoid delays in issuing import permits. Last year’s delays in issuing permits for eggs and onions resulted in abnormal price hikes, prompting a proactive approach to prevent such negative impacts on the market.

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