The Directorate General of Food will no longer allow the sale of goods from trucks under the Open Market Sale (OMS) programme in Dhaka; and authorised dealers will have to set up shops at permanent locations to sell the goods.
Directorate sources told The Business Standard the government had issued 118 licences to dealers – allowing them to sell rice and flour from trucks at a subsidised price under the OMS programme.
Seventy-seven dealers have already halted the OMS programme from trucks and set up shops at permanent locations following a directive of the Directorate General of Food. The remaining dealers have been directed to set up shops.
Officials concerned added the trucks used in the OMS programme caused congestion on the roads, as the vehicles were parked throughout the capital to sell goods.
The directorate introduced the new system of sales to eliminate the delay caused by trucks moving from one location to another and to prevent dealers from illegally selling the goods on the retail market.
Furthermore, if OMS goods are regularly sold at specific shops, dealers will gradually build up a loyal customer base, they added.
Under the OMS programme, a consumer can buy a maximum of 5kg rice and 5kg flour from a dealer. The price of one kilogramme of flour under the OMS is Tk18, while a kilogramme of rice usually sells for Tk30.
At present, the price of both flour and rice are much higher on the market. Coarse rice retails for Tk35-38 per kilogramme and flour for Tk28-32 per kilogramme.
Some allege that the dealers authorised to sell OMS goods are illegally selling them on the retail market for a profit. A dealer gets a tonne of rice and a tonne of flour, every day, to sell under the programme. A dealer also gets Tk2,000 commission per tonne of a commodity sold.
Though rice and flour are meant to be sold at a lower price to low-income people, a spot visit to Tejgaon revealed a different reality.
While the correspondent spoke with Md Saiful Islam, a dealer at a shop in Tejgaon on March 4, two people arrived on a motorcycle and told Saiful, "We are going to send Tk5,000 through bKash [a mobile financial service]."
"When our people visit the shop, give them three sacks of flour."
The dealer exited the shop, took the man a bit further away, and said, "Speak softly, there is a journalist in my shop."
When asked about the matter, the dealer said, "Brother, when the leaders visit, we have no alternatives. We have to oblige."
After some investigation, The Business Standard learned that Nazrul and Mizan are two authorised dealers operating in the Jurain area. They not only face allegations of selling rice and flour earmarked for sale under the OMS programme, but also of buying goods from other authorised dealers and selling them on the retail market.
Many dealers also allege that Abu Musa, a dealer in Mirpur Kachukhet area and Kader Shikder, another dealer at Bhasantek area, is involved in similar irregularities.
The OMS dealers alleged that it is convenient to sell goods from trucks. If the commodities can not be sold in one place, they can be transported to another point for sale. However, now there is no scope for that.
They claimed sales have diminished because they are based on a permanent location.
However, a dealer used to spend Tk2,000-2,500 every day to sell goods from trucks. They admit that this cost has now halved.
Md Shakil, a dealer in Bikrampur said, "The sale of rice and flour from trucks was higher. The sale in shops was lower. However, the cost has reduced compared to the earlier system."
Meanwhile, Sarwar Mahmud, Director General of the Directorate General of Food said, "A good number of problems arose from allowing the sale of rice and flour from trucks. Dealers used to park the trucks on roads, failed to reach sales locations on time and secretly sold goods on the retail market.
"The dealers have been told to set up permanent shops to solve these problems."
Commenting on the fall in sales he said, "When the shops become known to customers, the sales will increase. Action will be taken against those who illegally sell the OMS goods on the retail market."