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Saturday, 05 January 2008

Upward swing of rice price haltedAfter showing an upward trend for the last several days, the prices of rice in the city's wholesale and retail markets came to a halt yesterday.

The prices of rice have also come down by Tk 25 to Tk 30 in the wholesale markets of rice in Chittagong following the unloading of imported rice from ships at Chittagong Port.

However, the prices of flour, lentil and edible oil marked a sharp rise in one week. Atta is now selling Tk 40 per kg, while soyabean oil at Tk 100 per kg and Masur lentil at Tk 80 per kg.

According to the wholesalers of rice in Chittagong, the prices of rice are somewhat less in neighbouring Myanmar. If the import of rice continues from Myanmar at the private level, the prices of rice in local markets would come down, they said. They said opening of letters of credit (L/Cs) is likely to go up in the next week as the importers in Chittagong have become interested to import rice from neighbouring Myanmar through waterways.

On the other hand, prices of different varieties of rice are gradually coming down in two largest wholesale markets-Pahartoli and Chaktai-in the port city of Chittagong where the prices of rice went down by Tk 25 to Tk 30 per maund in the last two days. Rice prices may go down further in these markets, the wholesalers said.

Retailers from different parts of the southern districts have also been thronging these markets to buy rice over the last two days.

According to the wholesalers at these markets, unscrupulous wholesale rice traders of the North Bengal have stockpiled huge quantities of rice in the godowns in several northern districts, including Naogaon, Dinajpur and Bogra for making extra profits. As a result, deficit has arisen in the supplies of rice to different districts of the country.

Meanwhile, the prices of rice in the city's wholesale markets have remained stable. However, the wholesalers suggested the government to import rice from different countries for keeping the markets stable.

Visiting the Krishi Market, one of the largest wholesale markets at Shyamoli in the city yesterday, this correspondent witnessed that Parijat variety of rice was selling at Tk 29.47 to Tk 30.81 per kg, different varieties of Miniket at Tk 38 to Tk 40.19 per kg, and Paijam at Tk 36.17 to Tk 37.51 per kg.

However, the lowest quality of coarse rice is now selling at Tk 34 per kg at retail level.

The wholesalers said if the supplies remain normal the prices of rice would go down by Tk 1 to Tk 2 per kg by today (Saturday).

On the other hand, prices of other essential commodities like edible oil, atta and lentil marked a sharp increase in the city's markets yesterday.

Retailers said the prices of atta are not showing any sign of going down as different companies have suddenly increased the prices of their brands. Fresh, Teer, Mahin and other brands of atta were selling at Tk 39 to Tk 40 a kg in the local markets yesterday.

The five litre can of Rupchanda brand of soybean oil is now selling at Tk 495 to Tk 500. Retailers said the companies themselves increased the prices of soyabean oil by Tk 30 to Tk 50 for five litre cans in a week showing the lame excuse of "short supply." As a result, the retailers are to buy the soyabean oil at higher prices.

Ordinary people said despite the price hike of essentials, they have nothing to do but to purchase at higher prices. "We have been going through acute hardships following the price hike of essentials. We have been facing great difficulties in maintaining our families," said Abul Kalam, a government employee, who lives in Mirpur yesterday.

Golam Mowla, another private serviceholder, said the government would have to pay careful attention to the ongoing price-hike of essentials in the markets. Otherwise, it would have to face deep troubles in the days ahead.

Meanwhile, joint forces yesterday started selling rice at lower prices at 29 unions of Keraniganj, Nawabganj and Dohar upazilas in a move to control its spiraling prices.

Major Farid Ahmed of Savar army camp formally inaugurated the rice-selling programme at Nawabganj upazila at about 2:00pm. Theprogramme would also continue in Keraniganj and Dohar upazilas.

"This is our (army) own initiative to tackle the ongoing price hike of rice. People of the areas can buy rice at Tk 22 per kg from the rice selling outlets from 8am to 8pm and one can purchase maximum 5kgs," Major Farid told newsmen.

He said they have taken this initiative to cool down the overheated wholesale markets. Three rice-selling centers have been set up in the 29 unions of the three upazilas and the joint forces would monitor the programme.

Major Farid said: "After a marathon meeting with UNOs of the concerned upazilas, we decided that upazila authorities would sell rice to the traders at Tk 20.21 and the rice traders would sell it to the common people at Tk 22. On the first day we have got a huge response from all quarters."

He termed the programme as a 'pilot project' and said the three upazilas have 1500 metric tons of rice, which was allocated by the government at different projects like Food-for-Work and Test Relief programmes. "That does not mean the projects would not be implemented, those must be implemented later with the money that would come from the rice sale," he said.

He said if the project is implemented successfully, the rice traders who are behind the price hike will be forced to decrease its price for their survival as it would put pressure on them.

Responding to a query, he said, "We're implementing the project as per the existing law of the country. We're also trying to bring the rice price within the purchasing capacity of the common people through assimilating all sorts of government projects," Farid Ahmed said.

Source: The New Nation.

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