The Directorate of National Consumer Rights Protection on Saturday fined a dozen businessmen at two wholesale markets in Dhaka for hoarding onion and selling the item at a price much higher than they were bought at.
The directorate’s mobile court caught 10 businessmen in Shyambazar selling each kilogram of onion for Tk 255 though they had not paid more than Tk 155 for buying a kilogram.
‘Each businessman was fined Tk 10,000,’ DNCRP assistant director Mohammad Abdul Jabbar Mandal told New Age.
Five DNCRP teams on the day monitored markets in the capital including Basabo, Madartek and Karwan Bazar. Another mobile team found businessmen selling onion at Karwan Bazar without showing a price chart.
DNCRP deputy director Monjur Mohammad Shahriar said that two Karwan Bazar businessmen each were fined Tk 20,000 for not showing a price chart or for showing a fake one while selling onion.
On Friday, the consumer rights agency caught businessmen selling each kilogram of the commodity, bought for Tk 190, at Tk 220 at Mohammadpur Krishi Market.
‘It is more than clear that a syndicate of businessmen is manipulating the onion price capitalising on its supply crisis,’ said Monjur.
Penalising traders, without increasing the supply of onion in the market, would not bring any positive result, wholesalers at Shyambazar told New Age.
They requested the government to ensure supply of onion and not to fine small traders for the price hike of the item.
The price of onion began to soar in September after India first raised the minimum export price of the essential culinary ingredient.
The price started skyrocketing when the country later banned its export.
The onion price shot up by up to Tk 60 per kilogram overnight and hit Tk 120 on September 30.
The price kept jumping ever since and crossed Tk 250 on Friday.
The government said that onion was being exported from Turkey, Egypt and other countries by air and the price would start to fall soon.
Shahriar said that the imported onion would come to the market on Tuesday.
Bangladesh meets three-fourths of its onion demand with domestic production and the rest is met through import from India, he said.
‘There is no reason for the onion price to jump by Tk 60 a kilogram overnight unless businessmen manipulate the price,’ he observed.
He said that the government was aware of the unscrupulous practice and trying to find out the brains behind the price manipulation.
On Saturday online newspapers were flooded with reports of businessmen dumping rotten onions in Chattogram suggesting that they had tried to hoard them in the wake of onion crisis.
The New Age correspondent in Chattogram reported that city cleaners had to use trucks to carry away rotten onions dumped in the Chaktai canal over the past few days.
On Thursday, the Chattogram city corporation removed 20 tonnes of onions dumped in the canal.
Destitute people thronged the canal upon hearing the news of dumped onions there and tried to collect relatively less rotten onions to sell them for up to Tk 50 a kilogram.
Mohammad Idris, an onion trader at Khatunganj, said that the onions imported from Myanmar got rotten on the way and had to be dumped.
Abul Bashar, owner of Khatunganj Trading, said that almost all of the 20 storage depots in Chattogram had to dump rotten onions over the past few days.
Chaktai Khatunganj Wholesaler Business Welfare Association general secretary Ehsan Jahedi said that cyclone Bulbul might have destroyed onions by flooding storage depots.
In Chuadanga, onion traders attacked two journalists covering a mobile court drive in a local wholesale market around the noon on Saturday.
The mobile court allegedly fined two businessmen at Nicher Bazar in the Chuadanga town for selling onion without showing a price chart.
The mobile court fined them Tk 30,000 for failing to show documents about their onion purchase price drawing wraths from businessmen in the wholesale market.
Chuadanga deputy commissioner Nazrul Islam Sarker said that the businessmen confined the mobile court to the market but were unable to hold them there for long.
‘We are observing the situation before taking legal action against the businessmen,’ said Nazrul.