Although retail prices remain unchanged, wholesale prices of vegetables and spice crops have dropped -- in some cases by more than 50 percent-- in Rajshahi markets, frustrating growers.
Farmers and wholesalers attributed the price fall to absence of buyers, closure of markets and stoppage of supplies to the country's other parts during the 10-day shutdown from March 25, a protectionist move by the government to avoid spread of Covid-19.
Although the shutdown has no embargo on the supply chain of food crops and vegetables, many trucks used to transport those to different regions including Dhaka, Sylhet and Chattogram from Rajshahi region have remained off the street, contributing to the price fall.
Price of onion has come down to Tk 20 from Tk 30 per kg while it is being sold in retail market at Tk 34 per kg. Garlic price has plunged to Tk 40 from Tk 70 per kg against the retail price of Tk 80.
Prices of okra and pointed gourd have decreased to as low as Tk 10 from Tk 30 per kg against retail price of Tk 40. Prices of brinjal and cucumber have come below Tk 6 from Tk 30 per kg.
The prices of wheat, masur and khesari dal have also come down.
"The prices may fall further," said Sazzak Hossain, a farmer, who was picking okra from his field in Duari village beside Rajshahi-Tanore road while this correspondent was passing by recently.
The farmer said he would distribute the day's harvest among his relatives and villagers. He cultivated the vegetable on half a bigha of land and will be harvesting twice a week for three months.
"I would rather donate than sell at such low price," Sazzak said. "I sold okra at Tk 50 per kg even a week ago. Now, buyers are hesitating to pay even Tk 12."
"Most wholesalers are declining to purchase vegetables," said Shahjahan Ali from Baksara village in Poba upazila.
Shahjahan shared a story of one of his neighbours named Anarul Islam, who returned home with four maunds of cucumber after failing to get fair price at a wholesale market in the city.
"I saw Anarul selling cucumber at Tk 10 to neighbours," he said.
Faijul Islam, president of Rajshahi City Vegetable Wholesalers' Association, said finding no buyers many are dumping brinjal and cucumber in dustbins.
"Many are also selling cucumber at a very low price," he further added.
"We're incurring a complete loss as the markets are empty," he said, adding that the onions they purchased at Tk 28 per kg are being sold at Tk 20.
The labourers at the market have become unemployed, he said.
The city has around 2,000 trucks while some 400 of those are used to transport crops and vegetables to different parts of the country, said Sadrul Islam, general secretary of Rajshahi Truck Owners' Association.
"Most ruckers are fearing obstacles by law enforcers on roads," said Sadrul Islam.
Most shops of vegetable wholesalers were empty at the city's Kharkhari.
"At least six trucks with vegetables leave this place for different districts daily," said Samjan Ali. "No truck plied in the last five days," he added.
The law enforcers are frequently raiding the market, he said.
While visiting the areas under Poba and Tanore upazilas, this correspondent found that farmers almost completed harvesting wheat while some were harvesting potatoes.
Wheat price has fallen to Tk 900 a maund from Tk 1,200 within a week, said Sayebur Rahman, a farmer from Idolpur in Poba.
Masur dal is selling at Tk 2,700 per maund against its normal price of Tk 3,500 while khesari at Tk 1,800 against Tk 2,350, he said.
Sayebur said, "I have to return home without selling my produce."
Atahar Ali of Rajabarisaid he produced bananas besides five of his ponds and guavas in five orchards. Those are becoming rotten in absence of buyers.
Contacted, Shamsul Haque, deputy director of Department of Agricultural Extension, said the precautionary measures for avoiding coronavirus may affect vegetable and spice markets.
"We are going through a crisis. There will be some impacts," he said, adding, "We'll discuss the issue with the district level administrative officials."