Bangladesh government considering punitive actions against price manipulators: minister

In recent months, prices of necessities went beyond the buying capacity of the Bangladeshi middle class due to rising inflation, devaluation, supply chain interruptions due to austerity, and rising transport cost

Published : 25 March 2023, 11:49 AM
Updated : 25 March 2023, 11:49 AM

A handful of government agencies, including the Directorate of National Consumer Rights Protection have kicked off nationwide vigilance to keep the price of essentials in check during the month of Ramadan, a senior minister said.

During an informal briefing in Dhaka on Saturday, Information Minister Hasan Mahmud said the government plans to bring markets in districts and upazilas under surveillance.

“I don't see any valid reason to raise the prices of essentials during the holy month of Ramadan. If necessary, we will introduce punitive measures against those retailers who would attempt to make unjustified profits,” he said, describing price-manipulating retailers as “enemies of the people.”

The prevalent practice of retailers raising the prices of essentials during Ramadan, when the demand is higher, has been a heated issue of public debate in Bangladesh for decades. This year, according to media reports, the prices of necessities have shot past the buying capacity of the Bangladeshi middle class due to the combined effects of rising inflation, devaluation of the currency, interruption of the supply chain due to the government’s austerity measures and higher costs for transportation.

The DNCRP, armed with support from several intelligence agencies, started to investigate when the price of broiler chicken, a major source of protein for Bangladeshis, crossed Tk 250 per kg, up from around Tk 140-150 this time last year.

The Consumer Rights Directorate said their investigation revealed that a cartel of companies that control the majority of the broiler chicken market manipulated the prices to make exorbitant profits. However, the directorate has not recommended legal action against the cartel yet.

As a result of the DNCRP intervention, the large companies slashed the prices of each kg of broiler chicken by Tk 40, which minister Hasan termed a success of the government.

However, the announcement has yet to impact the market.

Since the DNCRP's revelation, the association of independent chicken farmers, who had accused the cartel of price manipulation for months, claiming it had raked in Tk 10 billion in profit recently, said the reduction of prices proved their claims.


Minister Hasan also claimed that the government has ensured the stock of grains during Ramadan was more than enough to meet the needs of the country's people despite the interruption of the global supply chain due to geopolitical issues.

“We have more than 200,000 tonnes of grains, especially rice and wheat, presently in stock, which is way above the 100,000-tonne threshold deemed as a safe margin for stocks according to government policy,” he said.

The minister also urged the media to actively participate in the government’s fight against price manipulators.