Prices of some kitchen essentials have begun to shoot up despite adequate production and supply.
The prices were raised ahead of Shab-e-Barat earlier this month. As Ramadan begins in a couple of days, retailers and whole sellers are hiking prices for a second time.
“Price hikes ahead of Ramadan are common phenomenon. If government takes steps, sellers will reduce prices a little bit. But they will not go back to the before-Shab-e-Barat prices,” Majedul Islam, a banker, said while grocery shopping at Shantinagar kitchen market yesterday.
Commerce Minister Tofail Ahmed at a meeting with businesspersons on April 1 said the prices of essentials would not change during Ramadan because supply would be higher than demand.
However, the reality is different in the kitchen markets of Karwan Bazar, Jatrabari, Moghbazar, Shyambazar and Farmgate.
Prices of onion, sugar, green chilli, eggplant, potato, garlic, ginger, tomato, cucumber and puffed rice increased by Tk 5 to 40.
Red meat and fish prices have also increased by Tk 20 to 50 per kg. Price of chicken has increased similarly.
Ghulam Rahman, president of Consumers Association of Bangladesh, said if the government failed to rein in the kitchen essentials' prices right now, many other things would become more expensive and the market would be volatile.
Each kg of locally grown onion is now sold at Tk 45-50, which was Tk 35-40 a week ago. The Indian variety is now Tk 35-40, a significant increase from last month's rate of Tk 25- 28.
Salam Sheikh, manager of a wholesale store at Karwan Bazar, said, “There is no crisis of goods in the market. A family usually buys about 5kg of onion at a time. But now they are buying 15kg of it. As a result, the prices have increased by Tk 4-5. It's not much,” he said.
Sarwar, another shopkeeper at Shyambazar said because of people's habit of buying things in advance, there would be a decline in sales five or six days into Ramadan.
“To compensate, sellers are now hiking onion prices.”
During Ramadan, the sale of sugar increases more than other essentials. The price of each kg of sugar increases by Tk 5-10. Before the price hike, each kg of sugar was sold at between Tk 52 and 54.
Wholesalers have blamed what they said was an artificial crisis.
“The price of sugar has dropped in the international market. The hike in the local market is not acceptable. Sugar carrying trucks are sitting idle because of the reduced supply,” Vice President of Bangladesh Sugar Merchant Association Abul Hashem said, adding the prices would not have been increased if there were smooth supply.
Biswajit Saha, director (finance) of City Group said his company usually supplies 2,800-3,000 tonnes sugar every day.
“Now we're delivering 3,800-4,000 tonnes,” he said, adding that his company was selling sugar at Tk 50 a kg.
Idrisur Rahman, general manager of Meghna Group of Industries, said for the last 3-4 months they have been selling 1kg packs of sugar for Tk 56.
“Some local businessmen are taking undue advantages,” he said.
Both of them claimed they were maintaining smooth supplies.
Acting chairman of Bangladesh Sugar and Food Industries Corporation AKM Delwer Hussain said there was enough sugar in stock. “I don't know the cause behind the price hike. I have engaged people to find that out.”
The Trading Corporation of Bangladesh has begun selling essentials on trucks at different parts of the country.
TCB is selling each kg of sugar at Tk 55, lentil (mashur) at Tk 55, brown peas at Tk 70 and date at Tk 120. It also sells a litre of soyabean oil at Tk 85.
CAB President urged government to take steps to rein in sugar prices.
The price of green chilli has been almost doubled in the last five days. On Wednesday, each kg was sold at Tk 30. The current price is Tk 50-60.
Coriander leaves, a Ramadan delicacy, has increased from Tk 15 to Tk 20.