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 Kamar Nor Aini Bt Kamarul Zaman
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 Independent Bangladesh
 Cooking oil prices see fresh rise

 18/02/2008 (Independent Bangladesh) - Prices of cooking oils increased more than Tk 200 per maund (37.3 kilogram) within a day on Saturday because of their dwindling supplies. The fresh jump in wholesale prices instantly influenced the already volatile retail market, where non-packed soya bean price surged to a range of Tk 104 and Tk 110 per kilogram on Saturday.

The state-owned Trading Corporation of Bangladesh quoted soya bean price at Tk 105 on Saturday, up from Tk 99 a week ago, Tk 95 a month back and Tk 65 a year back. Wholesalers blamed squeezing supplies for the latest wave of increase, while refiners pointed finger at the global price hikes of both soya bean and palm oils. Non-packed soya bean was traded between Tk 3,750 and Tk 3,850 per maund on Saturday at Maulvibazar wholesale market in Dhaka.

'Supply remains much lower than demand and millers are hiking rates of their own free will,' said Mohammed Ali, a wholesaler at Maulvibazar. Prices are changing almost every hour and suppliers care little about transaction documents, saying, "Either take it or leave it," another wholesaler said. Abul Hashem, general secretary of the Bangladesh Edible Oil Wholesalers Association, said that prices were on the rise as millers almost exhausted their stocks due to slower import of soya bean oil. Maulvibazar wholesalers sell more than 100 trucks, each with six tonnes of refined soya bean or super palm oil, every day during normal time.

But the number dropped below 50, he said. A Rouf Chowdhury, chairman of the Bangladesh Edible Oil Refiners Association, who is vying for the top post at the FBBCI in the March 19 election to the apex trade body, pleaded ignorance about the latest market data. But he put the blame on international prices and said 'there is nothing to be worried about' since stocks in pipeline were satisfactory. Market sources gave different clue as they claimed that palm oil price also rallied despite having good stocks in pipeline, keeping pace with soya bean oil whose stock was dwindling.

On Saturday, super palm oil was traded for Tk 3,600 per maund against Tk 3,480 on Thursday and Tk 3,250 a week ago. Palm oil price is lower than that of soya bean.

But double-refined palm oil, known as 'super palm,' looks like soya bean and sells almost at the same rates in non-packed form as consumers often fail to differentiate between the two, market sources said. Prices of edible oils that have been on the rise for more than a couple of years due to global price hike and supply shortage caused by increasing usage of oil seeds in bio-fuel production in rich countries.

Bangladesh, for its huge import dependence, remains exposed to global price fluctuation of cooking oils. Of the estimated 14 lakh tonnes of edible oils consumption, only 10 per cent is met by local mustard oil supply, while some 12 lakh tonnes of soya bean and palm oils come in crude forms from Argentina, USA, Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia. These are refined locally and marketed in bulk or in bottles, although a small quantity of bottled oil is imported for upmarket buyers.


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