Every year, there are stalls which display and sell Bangladeshi products and then there separate stalls dedicated to foreign brands at the Dhaka International Trade Fair.
The foreign goods are what attract and interest most Bangladeshi buyers who flock around and inside foreign pavilions to buy and look at brands which are usually unavailable at the local markets.
However, buyers and sellers are alleging that many stalls are selling domestic products at pavilions allotted for foreign products.
There are allegations that some foreign stalls are selling locally-made cheap products at the price of foreign products, and that many are selling products of one country in the name of another.
Buyers say they are being deceived into buying low quality products at higher prices. They believe that local products which are of low quality are being sold at shops which are supposed to sell foreign products.
On the other hand, many foreign stall owners and shopkeepers are embarrassed because of such activities. Women’s saris, jewellery, cosmetics, and household items are in high demand at the fair.
The shop owners, who were accused of selling local products in the name of foreign goods, rejected the allegations made by the consumers.
In spite of policies, local goods are being sold at foreign stalls. As the fair is coming to an end, buyers are increasingly alleging of being cheated due to lack of oversight by the organizers.
Meanwhile, many if not most vendors are continuing to sell local goods to consumers calling them foreign, and low quality products are being sold at higher prices.
The traders, however, rationalized their position by saying that they would not get any space elsewhere if they did not set up their shops within the foreign pavilion.
Adjacent to the main entrance of the fair, stands the Thai pavilion – in front of which a banner reads in all caps “The Royal Thai Pavilion.” Buyers at the pavilion say that there are no Thai sellers in there and some even accuse that most of the products displayed to be sold at the pavilion are local.
To find out whether the allegation is true, this correspondent spoke to a cosmetic trader at the pavilion who wished to be anonymous. He said the allocation of the pavilion was made in the name of the foreign country. After which, it was rented out to small local traders who set up smaller stalls inside. The only way for us to sell products at the fair, he said, was by renting stalls inside the foreign pavilion – so the traders opted for this special arrangement.
Another businessman said, on condition of anonymity, he has a cosmetic shop at Chawkbazar in Old Dhaka.
According to him, this year buyers are buying more goods at the fair. To sell products at this huge buyers’ market, he set up his shop at the Thai pavilion. He said the whole pavilion has only one Thai store and the other 20 are selling local products.
Most of the foreign stalls are displaying low quality goods from various local markets including Chawkbazar.
Products at the pavilion’s small shops include imitation jewellery, cosmetics and hand-made products. The imitation jewellery is the same as the one available at the capital’s New Market, Gausia Market and other local markets. A pair of imitation earrings that one can get for less than Tk100 at the local markets is being sold at Tk200-250 at the fair in the name of being foreign-made.
In this regard, the complaints made by the buyers seem sound. Meanwhile, the buyers are offered domestic products made by local brands such as Bismillah Textile at the pavilion that was allotted for UK products.
Right next to it, local businessmen opened stalls such as Makam Herbal and Ratul Fashion at the US pavilion.
However, across the fair’s main entrance stands the Iranian pavilion which is selling their product such as gems, burkas, cosmetics, pressure cookers, spices etc.
Rezaul Karim, member-secretary of the fair organizing committee said: “We cannot look after whether the traders are selling domestic products at foreign stalls or not because of lack of manpower at the fair. We will take action against those found guilty.”