Supply shortage of sugar, gram and other essentials is haunting the Trading Corporation of Bangladesh’s (TCB) open market sale programme for the low-income families, forcing the agency to delay sales over a month in many parts of the country.
According to officials and locals, beneficiaries of the TCB programme in many upazilas are yet to get the products for January, even as February nears end. Moreover, in some places the agency is yet to begin the sale of last month’s products.
TCB warehouse officials said supplies of sugar and pulses are being interrupted, making TCB dealers unable to deliver the products on time.
The disruption has raised concerns about the supply situation of essential commodities in Ramadan, which is set to begin next month. Fears are mounting that the disruption may leave the beneficiaries empty handed during the holy month.
TCB’s subsidised products are acting as oxygen for the poor amid soaring living costs. Delay in TCB sale has left many struggling to survive.
TCB sells three essential commodities, including edible oil, sugar and pulses at subsidised prices to one core family cardholders every month. The programme usually starts between 6-10th of every month and lasts until the end of the month.
Sales delay in January
In many places of the country, TCB is yet to complete its sales in January. In some places, including Narayanganj and Narsingdi, the products for the last months were sold at the start of February after a month-long delay while in some places products remain unavailable still.
TCB’s regional officials said the sale is stopped due to product shortage.
On condition of anonymity, an official of the Mymensingh office said “Due to lack of enough products, our sales are postponed for the time being. We still have to distribute the products in many upazilas.
“The matter has been informed to the higher authorities. We have not received any instructions yet. We will act according to the instructions they give.”
The crisis has given rise to fear among cardholders about whether they will get the products for the month of February.
Many dealers said they are not getting the goods for Ramadan even though they are supposed to get two rounds of products before the holy month kicks off.
Acknowledging the supply crisis, TCB Chairman Brigadier General Md Ariful Hassan said the problem is temporary and that the sale will resume soon.
Talking to The Business Post, he assured that the consumers will get the products for the month of February and March.
“The product schedule has been disrupted because of our sugar crisis. We are not getting sugar from local suppliers while the arrival of imported sugar is also getting delayed. The sugar shortage has led to the stoppage of the sale in many places,” he said.
The TCB chairman said they have decided to keep selling edible oil and pulses under the OMS programme, excluding sugar for the time being. “The warehouses will need to be emptied to store the products for Ramadan. We will adjust sugar later.”
Meanwhile, Ariful said other than the sugar shortage, TCB’s preparation for Ramadan is good for this year.
“We already have a big buffer stock of edible oil and pulses. We are receiving chickpeas supply. Dates will also arrive very soon. We will start selling Ramadan products in advance this year, so that all products are sold properly.”
According to TCB sources, essential commodities were sold among core cardholders for the first time last year across the country. At that time, TCB could not sell many chickpeas during Ramadan due to supply disruptions.
However, sources said chickpeas supply has been ensured this year.
During Ramadan, TCB plans to sell two liters of oil at Tk 110 per liter, two kg of lentils at Tk 70, one kg of chickpeas at Tk 50, one kg of sugar at Tk 65 and one kg of date to each cardholder.