Salt prices suddenly soared both in wholesale and retail markets across the country on Tuesday, according to traders and consumers.
Prices of different brands of packaged salt were selling at Tk 50-60 a kg at retail levels against Tk 35.
A consumer informed the FE on the day that a retailer at the city's Panthopath charged Tk 50 for a kg of packaged salt.
On the other hand, prices ranged from Tk 30-40 a kg at wholesale levels compared to Tk 30 a kg.
During a visit to the city's Moulvibazar wholesale market, it was found that traders and buyers were bargaining hard over the salt prices.
Besides, the sudden hike in salt prices prompted buyers to go on panic buying.
Some wholesalers were charging prices arbitrarily for the most essential item.
Sattar Alam, proprietor of Janu Store at the Moulvibazar wholesale market in the city told the FE that he was selling salt at Tk 35 to 40 a kg from the morning against Tk 30 a kg on Monday.
When contacted, Mohammad Enayetullah, president of Moulvibazar Merchant Association told the FE he found no reason for the price hike of salt as its supply was satisfactory in the market.
He blamed the social media and a vested group of people for the panic.
The association's president also made an instant arrangement for an announcement through loud speaker so that traders sell the item at its pervious price from today (Wednesday).
He asked all traders to ignore any rumour regarding the salt price.
Bangladesh Small & Cottage Industries Corporation (BSCIC) in a statement on Tuesday saw no reason for price hike of salt as there is no shortage of the commodity in the country against the current demand.
A group of unscrupulous people were spreading rumour through online media trying to take advantage of the situation, its statement said.
There would be no shortage of salt in future as a huge quantity of it is now stored, the BSCIC said.
A record quantity of salt, more than 1.8 million (18 lakh) tonnes, was produced in the country in the fiscal year 2018-2019.
As much as 0.65 million tonnes of salt was in stock in the country until November 15, as per the BSCIC statement.
People of the country are requested to not get confused over the issue, the statement added.
Our Cox's Bazar correspondent adds: Leaders of the Bangladesh Salt Mills Owners Association (BSMOA) claimed that there was no shortage of salt. It also said a quarter was trying to create a crisis in Sylhet and other areas to make profit.
They made the comments in their annual general meeting at Cox's Bazar town on Tuesday noon.
The meeting was told that at present the market of salt in the country is completely normal as the country has a surplus of more than 0.3 million tonnes. They said that consumers will use surplus salt at least for next three months.
The meeting was addressed among others by President of BSMOA Nurul Kabir, Vice president Motaherul Islam, Aftab Hossain, Master Abdul Kader, Fazlul Haq, Sajjad Hossain Chowdhury, Abu Hanif, Mir Ahmed and Kutub Uddin.
They said a section of smugglers were trying to import salt from abroad creating an artificial crisis in Sylhet and other parts of the country.
"Profit-monger traders spread a rumour that salt price was Tk 150 a kg. We want immediate punishment to them as they are hatching a conspiracy to destabilise the market", Nurul Kabir said.
He also said that some traders were importing toxic salt in the name of industrial salt.
Commerce Minister Tipu Munsi at a press breafing at the Secretariat on Tuesday saw no reason for the price hike of salt as the present stock is satisfactory.
He also said a section of traders were taking advantage of a rumour in the social media.
Currently the salt stock is 0.65 million tonnes while the monthly demand for the same is 0.1 million tonnes, Munsi added.
However, 23 people including five from Dhaka were arrested for selling salt at higher prices and spreading rumours.
Millers also termed the price hike of salt as an act of propaganda as there is no major supply shortage in the market.
Talking to the FE, executive member of Bangladesh Salt Mills Owners Association (BSMOA) and proprietor of Pubali Salt Industries Ltd Bipul Kranthi Saha suggested that the government allow import of the edible salt and continue restriction on entry of industrial salt in the market to help keep its price stable.
He said no permission for import of salt has been given for the last two years.
On the other hand, the country's major salt marketing companies said there is no supply shortage in the market and termed the supply crunch a rumour, according to private television channels and online news portals.
Besides, farmers and companies are in dire straits with a supply glut, they added.