A parliamentary sub-committee has identified 10 leading business houses for allegedly manipulating the country's commodity markets through syndication.
Led by MP Monirul Haq Chowdhury, the three-member sub-committee of the parliamentary standing committee on commerce disclosed the names at a committee meeting Thursday at the Jatiya Sangsad.
The sub-committee told the committee that it had identified 25 dishonest trading houses doing import business in the country. Of them, 10 are mainly controlling the local commodity market undermining the interest of consumers, it said.
However, the sub-committee that was formed a couple of months ago amid specific allegation of coordinated syndication brought by the national security forces did not submit the report in the day's meeting.
"The report is yet to be completed," Monirul Haq told reporters emerging from the meeting.
The committee has already completed the probe on the business houses and their syndicate activities.
Redwan Ahmed, Chairman of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Commerce, expressed his confidence that the sub-committee would submit the full report in the next meeting, which is likely to be held on September 3.
Critics, however, said the identification of the big business houses in the syndicated trade would not bring much benefit to the consumers, as the country has no appropriate law to punish them.
The existing consumer protection law that was enacted several decades ago has been under process of amendment for more than a couple of years.
However, sources said the finding of the sub-committee on syndication by the local business is appalling.
The sub-committee finds that a local leading sugar trader imported some 0.1 million tonnes of sugar in November through a letter of credit opened with One Bank.
The price of per kilogramme (kg) sugar after payment of duties and charges should be Tk 29.60.
However, the price of sugar had started to increase in the local market since November. The customers had to pay Tk 70 for a kg of sugar during March-June period, it finds.
Not only the sugar price, the sub-committee members have became sure that businessmen in syndication are also manipulating the prices of other essential commodities like onion, garlic, pulse and edible oil.
Because of the syndication, the local market situation often becomes volatile and goes beyond the control of the government, which has been trying hard to stabilise the local market.
The government has removed two commerce ministers following severe public criticism in the wake of steep price hike of essentials. The government has also taken steps to revitalise the Trading Corporation of Bangladesh (TCB) to stabilise the market.