Ramadan commodities have seen a retail price increase in Chattogram this year although their wholesale rates remained a bit lower compared to those in the previous year.
Cheaper global prices of the commodities—edible oil, chickpeas, lentil, dun peas, sugar and dates—along with huge imports made in the last four months brought down the wholesale prices, businesses opined.
Moreover, a smooth supply chain ensured by the improved trading environment at the Chattogram port and the prevailing political stability also played a big role in keeping the local market stable, importers and traders said.
However, retail prices of a few items like lentil, chickpeas and packed sugar increased a bit due to a rise in demand, said businesspeople in Khatunganj, a trade hub of the port city.
According to Bangladesh Tariff Commission, around 3 lakh tonnes of edible oil is consumed in the holy month of Ramadan alone against the country’s annual demand of 18 lakh tonnes.
In the last four months till April, import of edible oil stood at 9.55 lakh tonnes.
In January and February this year, the global market prices of a tonne of soybean and palm oil were $750 and $650 respectively, down by around $100 a tonne year-on-year, according to the World Bank Commodity price chart.
Wholesalers at Khatunganj were found selling palm oil at Tk 1,920 per maund and soybean oil at Tk 2,800 per maund in the last few weeks.
Shahedul Alam, a leading wholesaler at the market, said the average prices of palm and soybean oil were much higher in the early weeks of Ramadan last year when the prices were Tk 2,400 and Tk 3,080 respectively.
Around 80,000 tonnes of chickpeas, a staple for iftar, is consumed during Ramadan while a total of 143,898 tonnes has been imported through the Chattogram port in the last four months since January, according to Chittagong Customs House.
The average price of chickpeas in the international market stood at $650 per tonne in January and February this year while the price decreased to $600 later.
Wholesale prices of chickpeas of different qualities ranged from Tk 60 to Tk 67 a kilogramme (kg) at Khatunganj yesterday, almost resembling that of last year, said Asutosh Mohajan, proprietor of wholesale firm Payel Traders.
Retail prices of chickpeas were found ranging from Tk 70 to Tk 75 per kg yesterday and the prices are around Tk 5 higher than that of the previous week.
The wholesale market is stable due to the ample supply required to meet the increased demand for Ramadan, said Abul Bashar Chowdhury, chairman of BSM Group, a Khatunganj based leading commodity importing firm.
The cheaper international prices have encouraged importers to bring in Ramadan commodities in bulk, said Chowdhury, adding that it was difficult for any trader now to increase the prices to a great extent due to the ample supply.
Around 9.58 lakh tonnes of raw sugar have been imported in the last four months while demand for this commodity during Ramadan is around 3 lakh tonnes.
Price of raw sugar in the international market was $310 a tonne this year, down from $330 last year. Wholesalers here are selling loose sugar at Tk 46 a kg.
According to the Trading Corporation of Bangladesh, retail price of sugar dropped by around 7 percent from that last year and was sold at Tk 52 a kg yesterday.
Around 1.33 lakh tonnes of lentil and 2.73 lakh tonnes of dun pea were imported from January to April this year against its Ramadan demand of 80,000 tonnes.
Global price of lentil reduced remarkably, hitting $400 to $450 per tonne in January and February this year down from $500 to $600 in the previous year, according to the importers.
Wholesale prices of lentil ranged from Tk 46-50 a kg in the last one week while the prices ranged from Tk 50 to Tk 53 a kg ahead of Ramadan last year, said Ratan Ghosh, a wholesaler. Retailers were found selling the item at Tk 55 a kg.
Price of lentil of good quality, however, increased in the retail markets, hitting Tk 105 a kg, up from Tk 95 before Shab-e-Barat. Wholesale price of dun pea is Tk 35 a kg which is similar to last year’s price, Ghosh added.
The price of dun pea fell by $25 in the global market to $275 a tonne this year.