OCP to penalise vendors if caught overpricing

Yangyel Lhaden

Not happy with the price of onions? Write or call the Office of Consumer Protection (OCP) instead of venting the frustration on social media.

OCP officials are requesting people to report to them if onions and tomatoes are charged more than the price fixed by the Department of Agricultural Marketing and Cooperatives.

The Food Corporation of Bhutan Limited (FCBL) on October 28 notified the price, some of which are maximum price of onions at Nu 111 and tomatoes at Nu 78 in Thimphu and Paro, and Nu 84 for tomatoes and Nu 90 for onion in Zhemgang and Tsirang.

The notification comes after the price of onions and tomatoes, especially onions, went out of control. The price of onions in the capital is between Nu 150 and Nu 200 and tomatoes between Nu 100 and Nu 150. According to OCP officials, a fine equivalent to the value of the goods sold shall be imposed for charging higher prices.

OCP officials said that vendors were selling at the fixed price when they went for inspection. However, people are accusing OCP for poor monitoring of prices and some said it was of no use to fix a price when on ground it did not happen.

Vendors claim that they have to increase the price to make up for losses. A vendor at the multi-level car parking (MLCP) said that he received only 43 kg of onions in a sack and some were rotten. A sack of onion from FCBL is supposed to weigh about 45 kg. Some received less while some more than the average weight.

One of the vendors sold onions at Nu 150 and tomatoes at Nu 100 to make up for the differences in the weight of onions he received from FCBL.

FCBL Director Dorji Tashi said that profit margin of 20 percent is enough to recover losses from damages. Onions and tomatoes are perishable products and the profit margin was already high compared to rice which was only between two and three percent, he said.

Vendors procure onions and tomatoes at landed cost from FCBL. Landed cost includes the total cost of getting a shipment to its destination. It is subjected to change based on the transportation and procurement costs.

The retail price is inclusive of operational cost, handling losses, overhead charges and profit.

“FCBL started to weigh onions and tomatoes before supplying to vendors and the weight should not be a problem, henceforth,” Dorji Tashi said.

An official from OCP said that they requested FCBL to advocate vendors about the price when distributing products while the office monitored the price.

FCBL imports onions and tomatoes on a quota basis. The current quota for the import is for October till December. “After December we are not sure if import of onions and tomatoes will happen,” Dorji Tashi said.