Spice prices have started rising on the back of opportunistic traders'bid to cash in on the surge in demand for the essential cooking ingredients ahead of Eid-ul-Azha, the second biggest religious festival in the country.
The wholesale and retail prices of spices increased both in Dhaka and Chittagong although the import of six spices—cardamom, cumin, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and black pepper—rose 10.73 percent year-on-year to 4.54 crore kilogram in fiscal 2017-18, according to Chittagong Customs data.
“This is very frustrating,” said a mid-aged shopper at Mohammadpur Town Hall Market.
The traders have gotten away with increasing the spice prices because of a lack of monitoring and surveillance by the market watchdogs, he said.
In Dhaka, a kg of cardamom yesterday sold at Tk 1,600-2,200, up 18.75 percent from a month ago.
The prices of ginger and onion, two essential ingredients for preparing dishes, also shot up, according to the Trading Corporation of Bangladesh.
Consumers in Chittagong, the second biggest city after Dhaka, are also paying more for cardamom, cumin and cinnamon.
The prices are likely to rise further ahead of Eid ul Azha, said Rumi Ghosh, a retailer at Karnaphuli CDA Market in Chittagong.
“We have to pay more to the wholesalers to buy the spices,” he said citing the price spirals at Khatunganj, the country's major wholesale hub of spices and other food commodities.
At Khatunganj, the prices of cardamom, cumin, cinnamon and cloves increased Tk 20 to Tk 100 per kilogram. However, the prices of nutmeg and black pepper dropped slightly.
Some importers and traders blamed the rise in price on their spiralling prices in the global market and delayed delivery of goods from the Chittagong port.
In different trading hubs, goods change hands many times before reaching the end users and a group of middlemen make good money in the process.
These middlemen usually collect goods in bulk and create a fake crisis in the market, said Md Sekander, who usually buys spices directly from importers and sell it to a third party.
At Khatunganj, the wholesale price of cardamom imported from Guatemala shot up to Tk 1,550 a kg, registering a rise of Tk 100 on each kilo in a span of three weeks.
The import of cardamom shot up 27 percent year-on-year to about 40 lakh kg in fiscal 2017-18.
Cumin prices also increased although its import rose 13 percent year-on-year to 2.72 lakh kg in the just concluded fiscal year.
For example, Indian cumin were selling at Tk 320 a kg in the last few days at Khatunganj, up from Tk 300 a kg three weeks ago.
Despite an increase in cinnamon imports, its prices rose Tk 40 per kg in the last two weeks, reaching up to Tk 280 yesterday at Khatunganj.
In the wholesale hub, the price of cloves that are usually imported from India, Indonesia, Madagascar and Brazil, shot up between Tk 30 and Tk 60 a kg depending on its quality.
Faruk Ahmed, proprietor of spice importing firm Faruk Trade International at the wholesale hub, said the booking rates of the spices were higher in the international markets and it caused the rise here.
He said cardamom usually produced in October and November in Guatemala and its price gets higher in May or June when businesses from Bangladesh and other Muslim majority countries usually book for imports during Eid.
Prices of nutmeg, however, dropped Tk 20 a kg. Wholesalers were found selling Sri Lankan nutmeg at Tk 400 a kg while the price was at Tk 420 per kilo two weeks ago.
The price of Indian nutmeg dropped to Tk 390 a kg against its previous price of Tk 410 a kg.
Like nutmeg, black pepper also came down to Tk 400 a kilo from Tk 420 per kilo two weeks back.
Wholesalers said there is enough supply of these two items and their demand also did not increase that much.