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20 November, 2019 12:23:06 AM / LAST MODIFIED: 20 November, 2019 01:21:28 PM

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Salt prices skyrocket as rumours trigger panic buying

There is no shortage of salt in country: Govt
STAFF REPORTER, Dhaka
Salt prices skyrocket as rumours trigger panic buying
People in Khulna throng a grocery shop to buy salt as rumours go round the country about the shortage of table salt. Inset, a policeman uses a public announcement  system to warn against panic buying of the essential cooking item in the capital’s premier kitchen market Karwan Bazar yesterday. Independent, Focus Bangla Photos

Just out of the blue, rumours of salt shortage prompted people across the country to buy and stock table salt, leading to a spurt in its price. During visits to the capital’s kitchen markets yesterday (Tuesday), The Independent found people thronging shops for buying and stocking salts.

It was also seen that after the rumours surfaced in different parts of the country, including Dhaka, shopkeepers sold salt at Tk. 100 to 200 per kg, while the actual price was Tk. 35-40.

People were seen thronging the Segunbagicha kitchen market, Karwan Bazar, Kaptan Bazar and other retail markets to buy and stock salt following the rumours. A retailer in the Shukrabad area, Ibrahim, said his stock of salt was sold out in a couple of hours in the morning. “By Tuesday noon, 100kg of salt was sold out as against the usual 15kg a day,” he added.

Another retailer, Nurul Islam, said: “I sold a kg of the ACI-brand salt at Tk 35. The usual sale was never more than 10kg, whereas I have already sold 150kg. Each customer was buying 4-5 kg of salt!” He claimed that he did not sell more than a kg of salt to a customer. He said if the buying spree continues, the price will shoot up further.

Another shopkeeper of the same area, Abdul Alim, said a retailer bought 25kg of salt from him at the wholesale price in the morning before he noticed anything. Only 10kg of salt was left in his shop that was sold quickly. “Now I can’t meet the demand of customers,” he added.

“A shopkeeper gave me a half-kg packet of salt, charging Tk. 80. When I tried to bargain, he replied that after hours you might not get it in this price,” said Ahmed Ali, a private car driver in the Banasree area of the capital.

At the same time, salt of different brands was sold for Tk. 100 per kg in the city’s Gandaria area.

Traders claimed they had no knowledge about the sudden rise in demand of salt, while customers said they heard rumours that the salt price is on the rise like that of onion.

The police were asked to monitor the salt market and conduct searches in grocery shops of the city so that no one can provoke unrest by creating an artificial crisis of salt.

The police headquarters also urged the consumers to call the National Emergency Number hotline at 999 or to contact nearest police station if anyone demands excessive price for salt.

The additional commissioner of the Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP), Monirul Islam, gave the directive to law enforcers through a wireless message.

Several officers-in-charge (OCs) of the DMP, including Mugda police station OC Proloy Kumar Saha, confirmed this to the media.

Proloy Kumar Saha said: “We are conducting campaigns as per the directive of the higher authorities so that no one can create any disorder by increasing the salt price. We are closely monitoring the situation so that traders cannot sell salt charging more.”

Government officials, however, said there was no shortage of salt in the country.

Amid rumours of salt shortage, the government has urged the people not to fall for it and assured them that salt stocks are much more than the demand.

Commerce minister Tipu Munshi said yesterday that there is enough salt in the country, but unscrupulous traders are taking advantage of the situation. “We have directed the departments concerned to take action,” the minister said at a briefing at his ministry.

Awami League General Secretary Obaidul Quader yesterday warned that action will be taken against those who are trying to destabilise the market through spreading rumours.

“There’s no crisis of salt in the country. Rather, there’s a surplus stock,” he said while speaking at a press conference at the AL president’s Dhanmondi political office.

Quader, also road transport and bridges minister, said rumours are being spread about salt in a planned way. “It’s a conspiracy, anarchy and evil attempt.”

He also said those are provoking the rumours are opposition. “They want to make political gains and they want snap polls.”

Turning to rice, the minister said there is no crisis of the staple in the country. “There’s enough stock of rice. The government launches the activities on Wednesday to buy rice.”

Meanwhile, the Bangladesh Small & Cottage Industries Corporation (BSCIC) urged people not to get confused by misleading information about salt stocks and price being spread by an unscrupulous group. It said the current salt stocks are much more than the country needs.

In a statement sent to the media, the BSCIC said an unholy syndicate is spreading such rumours through social media. “There’s no shortage of salt in the country. At present, the salt stocks are much higher than the demand,” the statement quoted BSCIC chairman Md Mostaque Hassan.

“People are requested not to get confused. The salt stocks were 6,50,000 tonnes on November 15, and the country saw record salt production of nearly 1.23 million tonnes in the 2018-2019 fiscal year, much higher than the target,” the statement said.

The industries ministry, in a press release, said some 4.5 lakh metric tonnes, out of the total 6.50 lakh metric tonnes of salt, are with salt farmers of Cox’s Bazar and Chattogram, while there is a stock of 2.45 lakh metric tonnes in various salt godowns across the country.

The ministry also said the salt production season began this month and the new supply of salt, produced in Kutubdia and Moheshkhali upazilas of Cox’s Bazar, has started arriving in the market.

The Salt Mill Owners' Association also said a group of unscrupulous people spread rumours about the salt price to destroy the industry and create an unstable situation for the government.

Nurul Kabir, president of the association, said: “It is sabotage and a conspiracy to destroy the salt industry.”

MK/MK

 

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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman

Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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