The government on Thursday set the prices of three locally produced food items – egg, potato, and onion – for the first time against the backdrop of soaring prices of the commodities.
At a press conference held at his ministry, commerce minister Tipu Munshi announced the maximum retail prices for egg at Tk 12 a piece, potato at Tk 35–36 a kilogram and locally grown onion at Tk 64-65 a kilogram.
The minister also announced a reduction in the price of soya bean oil by Tk 5 per litre and palm oil by Tk 4 per litre.
He also announced that the government had decided in principle to allow the import of eggs to ensure a stable price for the commodity in the local market.
Tipu Munshi said that the Directorate of National Consumer Rights Protection would start working on Thursday to implement decisions on the prices of essential items, and district administration would also start a drive in the markets across the country within two or three days.
The prices of most of the essential commodities have continued to rise in the local market since 2020, showing the Covid-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine as excuses.
According to the Trading Corporation of Bangladesh, the prices of essential commodities, including atta, edible oil, red lentils, onion, garlic, sugar, and egg, have soared by 38 to 219 per cent in the past three years, from August 29, 2020, to August 30, 2023.
The prices of the items had been decreasing in the global market for the past year but continued to rise in Bangladesh.
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations food price index showed that monthly changes in the international prices of globally traded food commodities averaged 121.4 points in August 2023, down 2.1 per cent from July and 24 per cent below its March 2022 peak.
At the same time, food prices in Bangladesh hit a 12-year high in August 2023.
The commerce minister said that after analysing the production costs and market prices, they had found that some of the locally produced commodities were being sold at high prices.
As per the Agricultural Produce Markets Regulation Act 1964, the commerce ministry has set the maximum retail prices of the three products in consultation with the agriculture ministry and livestock ministry, Tipu Munshi said.
According to the commerce minister, the price of egg has been set at Tk 10.50 a piece at the production level and Tk 12 a piece at the retail level.
The price of potato has been set at Tk 26–27 a kilogram at the cold storage level and Tk 35–36 a kilogram at the retail level.
The price of locally produced onion has been set at Tk 53–54 a kilogram at the wholesale level and Tk 64–65 a kilogram at the retail level.
Tipu Munshi said that four to five businessmen had already filed applications with the ministry seeking permission to import eggs.
At the preliminary stage, the ministry would allow the import of eggs in small quantities, and if necessary, it would be increased, he said.
Regarding potato, the minister observed that despite surplus outputs, the prices of the commodity have increased abnormally in recent times.
If the price of potato set by the government was not implemented, the government agencies would conduct drives in cold storages, and all the potatoes would be sold at the rate of Tk 27 a kilogram, Tipu Munshi said.
According to the TCB, an egg was sold for Tk 13, potato for Tk 43-50 a kilogram and the locally produced onion for Tk 70–80 a kilogram on the markets in Dhaka on Thursday.
The commerce minister announced a reduction in the price of packaged soya bean oil to Tk 169 a litre from Tk 174 a litre, while the price of the unpackaged item was reduced to Tk 149 a litre from Tk 154 a litre.
The minister also announced a reduction in the price of palm oil to Tk 124 a litre from Tk 128 a litre.
The Bangladesh Vegetable Oil Refiners and Vanaspati Manufacturers Association issued a press release on Thursday saying that the reduced prices of edible oil would be effective from Sunday.