Rice prices edged up further due to a falling supply and soaring transport costs amid shutdowns and blockades, traders said.
The price of fine rice rose 4.37 percent to Tk 40-Tk 56 a kilogram at city markets on Thursday from Tk 38-Tk 54 a day before.
The price of coarse rice also went up 2.85 percent to Tk 34-Tk 36 a kilogram, according to Trading Corporation of Bangladesh.
"Transport costs have risen to abnormally high levels because of repeated shutdowns and blockades. The supply of rice from the producing regions has also fallen for political unrest. These are the main factors behind the price spiral," said Abdul Matin, owner of Titas Enterprise at Mohammadpur Krishi Market.
Transport fares have gone up by two-three times, he added.
Since the first week of November last year, rice prices have been rising, owing to a ruptured supply chain -- from the farm gates to mills, and later, consumers -- in the face of prolonged political instability.
Since October 26, BNP and its allies have enforced 50 days of countrywide shutdowns and blockades, in addition to strikes at district levels that hit trade and the transport of goods.
Traders and millers said paddy stocks in the wholesale depots rose as traders could not send trucks smoothly to the mills due to the repeated shutdowns. And millers, who could not collect paddy by risking attacks on trucks, also could not send rice to markets in the cities.
The high price of paddy for falling stocks with the millers is another reason behind the spiral, traders added.
The price of fine rice increased 11.62 percent from Tk 36-Tk 50 a kilogram since November 5, 2013. The price of coarse rice soared 6 percent from Tk 32-Tk 34 a kilogram, according to TCB.
"Political unrest has caused a spiral in rice prices. Stocks at the rice producing hubs have risen in the absence of transport," said KM Layek Ali, convener of Bangladesh Automatic and Husking Mill Owners Association.
He said the cold wave may also have affected prices.
Nirod Boron Saha, president of an association of rice and paddy commission agents and wholesalers in Naogaon, agreed with Ali.
He said the supply of rice from farmers has been low.
"The prices of paddy at the local haats and bazaars are not falling, even though stocks are piling up at the wholesale level. So, it seems that production has fallen in some areas for pest attacks. An increased cultivation of scented rice has also affected production of coarse paddy used for parboiling," he said.
Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics is yet to finalise data on the immediate aman rice production in the current fiscal year. Aman output was 1.28 crore tonnes in 2012-13, according to BBS. A BBS senior official said the production of aman rice is unlikely to be lower this fiscal year compared to the previous year.