Govt urges consumers not to panic  

Staff Correspondent | Published: 13:36, Mar 18,2020 | Updated: 00:51, Mar 19,2020


A National Consumers’ Right Protection directorate mobile court conducts a drive at Karwan Bazar in Dhaka on Wednesday amid complaints of charging extra by the traders. — New Age photo

The government on Wednesday called on people to refrain from panic buying and stockpiling, assuring that the country had adequate supplies and stocks of essential commodities including rice.

The commerce ministry and the food ministry at two separate press conferences said that there were no reasons to panic over the coronavirus infection spread in the country and buy products beyond the amounts necessary to meet the regular demands.

Commerce minister Tipu Munshi, at a briefing held at his office at the secretariat, said that the country had now stocks of essential products at least 25 per cent  to 30 per cent higher than that in the same period of the previous year.

So, there will be no supply shortage of products in the coming days, he said.

He also urged traders not to create any artificial crisis capitalizing on the coronavirus outbreak.

At another briefing on food situation, food minister Sadhan Chandra Majumder said that the government had now enough stock of food grains, mainly rice. ‘We have around 17.50 lakh tonnes of food grains, mainly rice, which was 15.5 lakh tonnes last year,’ he said.

Boro harvest at haor areas will start after one month, he said, adding that there are no reasons for rice price hike at this moment.

All dealers across the country have already been asked to resume the open market sale of rice, beside flour, so that no one can create any artificial crisis, he said.

‘Stern actions will be taken against anyone if they try to make the rice market unstable, capitalising on the fear of the coronavirus outbreak,’ Sadhan said.

If needed, the government will import rice. There will be no crisis, he assured.

The two ministers arranged the briefings following a price hike of some products at retail markets on Tuesday as people started panic buying fearing supply shortage and price hike as people were gripped by the fear of coronavirus spread.

Consumers across the country on Tuesday thronged the grocery shops to buy additional quantity of essential commodities amid the COVID-19 outbreak fearing that the prices of products, mainly rice, would go up in the coming days.

Traders said that city’s super stores and grocery stores started witnessing rush of buyers from Monday.

The pressure from consumers for additional quantities of essential commodities such as rice, atta, pulse, edible oil and salt also remained in place on Wednesday, they said.

Commerce minister said that they also found the evidence of price hike of some products at retail markets due to panic buying though the prices at wholesale markets did not increase.

Consumers should not be panicked based on any rumour, he added.

According to the commerce ministry, the government has set a target of 3.87 crore tonnes of rice production this year against 3.74 lakh tonnes last year.

Pulse import stood at 2.1 lakh tonnes during July-January of the FY20 against 2.6 lakh tonnes in last FY19.

Edible oil import also stood at 16.84 lakh tonnes in July-February this year whereas the annual demand for the item is 18.60 lakh tonnes in the country.

In last FY19, the country’s edible oil import was 15.30 lakh tonnes.

Traders imported 8,000 tonnes of onion in just two days after March 15 while local onion has also started to come into the market.

Commerce minister Tipu Munshi said that that the government had also ensured that the stock of essential commodities remained higher by several times for the month of Ramadan compared with that of the same month of previous years.

It has made an arrangement of 30,000 tonnes of onion and 50,000 tonnes of edible oil for the month of Ramadan.

Usually, the ministry would make an arrangement of 3,000 tonnes of onion and 5,000 tonnes of edible oil in previous years, he added.

Trading Corporation of Bangladesh will start selling commodities at fair prices at open markets.

He said that there were no alternative to consumers’ awareness as it will not be possible to control several lakhs retailers across the country.

At least seven teams of Directorate of National Consumer Rights Protection are in vigilance in Dhaka to oversee whether traders were increasing the prices amid the coronavirus outbreak.

Deputy commissioner of each district was asked to run vigorous motivational campaign so that consumers do not go into a panic mode, he said.

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