Vol. 4 Num 213 Wed. December 31, 2003  
Star City

High prices slow sales at Saarc fair

Sale was not satisfactory despite a good number of people visiting the show, was the opinion of most stall owners at the Fifth South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation (Saarc) Trade Fair 2003.

Six of the seven Saarc member countries, India, Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bhutan and hosts Bangladesh are participating in the fair that started last Saturday. Maldives opted out this time.

The fair has been organised jointly by the Export Promotion Bureau (EPB) and Commerce ministry at the Bangladesh-China Friendship Hall premises.

Each year, the fair is held at a different SAARC country.

Readymade garments, leather goods, food products, beverage, ceramics, imitation jewellery, handicrafts, electronic goods and other items are available in 125 stalls in the fair. Bangladesh has 60 stalls while India has 25. Bhutan, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Pakistan have 10 stalls each.

"We expected to get things at a cheaper price here than the markets outside but that has not been the case," said Farida Hossain, a housewife coming from Mirpur.

"The shawls and jewellery at the Nepalese stores are very enticing but the prices are beyond my reach," said Sonia Hossain a student.

Some stall owners informed that the duty imposed on sales pushed the prices up.

"When we calculate 30 per cent duty, 15 per cent VAT and 15 per cent sales tax before fixing the price of a product, it automatically crosses people's purchasing capacity," said Shiekh Anis Javaid, owner of M/s Wood Packer of Pakistan.

When contacted Manzoor KH Uddin, the event manager said local entrepreneurs have to pay 1.5 per cent tax but foreign traders have to pay the required tax on goods sold to the customs department only at the time of departure.

Some stalls are not too anxious about selling their items since they are designed only to display products.

"We are participating in the fair in order to get more trade partners," said Abul Bashar Dewan of Square Pharmaceuticals Ltd. Sayeedur Rahman, Senior Marketing Officer of Monno Ceramic also said his organisation is participating to promote exports.

Those who are on the look out for trade partners or agents in different countries felt that the response has been good.

"Traders are showing interest in getting franchise of the company," said Atula Talagala, of Edna Chocolate Private Ltd., Sri Lanka.

Though the stall owners were found to be more or less content with the way the fair has progressed, they however criticised the organisers for not arranging it inside the Friendship Centre.

"Rainwater damaged a lot of valuable goods," said one entrepreneur.

The event manager said that the bout of rain was unexpected in winter.

Visitors at a stall at Saarc fair. PHOTO: AKM Mohsin