National, Front Page

Govt goes tough on onion cartel

600 mkt manipulators detected

Published : 05 Jun 2023 10:12 PM

Authorities concerned have unearthed a syndicate of 600 unscrupulous people allegedly involved in manipulating the countries onion market leading to abnormal price hike despite sufficient local production.

Soon their identity will be reveled and punitive action will be taken against them, said officials of the Chittagong district administration. 

Recent investigations by the Chittagong district administration have uncovered the existence of a syndicate of middlemen in the Khatunganj and Chaktai markets of Chittagong, which are among the largest consumer goods wholesale markets in the country. The investigation revealed that these middlemen were primarily responsible for the inflation of commodity prices. 

Shockingly, it was discovered that only one purchase receipt was being issued to ten individuals through Demand Order (DO) in the market, perpetuating price manipulation. The authorities gathered the names and mobile numbers of over 600 middlemen involved in these transactions.

In a startling revelation, the recent fluctuations in the onion market have exposed the alleged involvement of a syndicate, as the government’s announcement of importing onions caused the price to almost halve overnight. 

Despite sufficient native onion production, the market witnessed months of instability, resulting in an exorbitant price increase, causing distress among consumers.

The Ministry of Agriculture’s decision to halt onion imports, based on the country’s self-sufficiency in production, was intended to ensure a steady supply of onions. 

On the first they the ministry has approved 210 IP (Import Permission) where they will import 2.80 lakh tonnes of onion. 

However, the pretext of import stoppage led to skyrocketing prices, with the cost rising two and a half to three times within a span of two months. Despite efforts by the consumer department and mobile court raids in various markets, the price of this essential commodity remained uncontrollable.

On Sunday, the government finally announced the resumption of onion imports. Astonishingly, even before the imports had begun, the price of onions nearly halved simply due to the announcement. This abrupt price reduction has prompted individuals concerned to claim that the price manipulations were orchestrated by a syndicate operating within the market.

According to the Department of Agriculture Extension, the country’s annual onion demand is approximately 3 million tonnes, whereas the last fiscal year witnessed a production of 3.6 million tonnes. Therefore, production has been sufficient to meet demand. 

Critics argue that although the government had initially halted imports due to the surplus production of onions, the ban inadvertently led to an alarming increase in prices. Consequently, consumers were left burdened as prices continued to rise, despite ample supply and stock. It was only when the government announced the permission for imports that the price began to decline.

SM Najer Hossain, the vice-president of the Consumers Association of Bangladesh (CAB), stated, “We had previously suspected the involvement of import syndicates in manipulating prices, and it seems our suspicions were correct. The imported onions have not even entered the market yet, and the price reduction after the announcement clearly indicates that the syndicate was responsible for the price hike.”

The sudden decrease in onion prices following the government's announcement has brought to light the activities of the alleged syndicate and emphasizes the need for stricter regulation and oversight within the market to protect consumers' interests.

As the government prepares for the arrival of imported onions, concerned authorities and consumer advocacy groups continue to advocate for comprehensive measures to eradicate price manipulation and ensure stable market conditions for essential commodities like onions.