<i>Prices: Lies and illusions </i>
A disconnect is evident in the prices of essentials. Retailers claim lower prices to market watchers, but the things are not the same to real shoppers.
Security guard Mohammad Liton heads home after running errands for shopping: potatoes for Tk 28 a kilogram, lentils for Tk 112 a kilogram and some vegetables.
Soon after, a price monitoring team from the Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FBCCI) enters the Gulshan 2 kitchen market, querying the prices of essentials. Sellers are quick to say the prices are low -- Tk 26 for a kilogram of potatoes and Tk 108 for lentils per kg.
An unsuspecting Liton has already walked out of the market. He was unaware of the rip-off.
“What is the price of a kilogram of potato?” FBCCI Vice President Abul Kashem Ahmed asked a vegetable seller.
“Tk 26 a kilogram,” said the greengrocer.
“How much did you buy it for?" asked Ahmed. "Do you have a memo?”
The vegetable seller failed to show any memo but asserted that he bought a kilogram at a wholesale rate of Tk 25.5.
Other vegetable sellers in the area also failed to demonstrate any memos that would support the prices they claimed.
Prior to the FBCCI team's visit yesterday, retailers were also seen demanding Tk 46 for a kilogram of sugar, up from last month's price.
Retailers also claimed lower prices for vegetables, such as eggplants, green chillies and cucumbers, to the FBCCI team. Far from real.
Zakir Hossen, a vegetable seller in the same market, was seen charging a shopper Tk 28 for a kilogram of cucumber, but slashed the prices by Tk 3 when the FBCCI team approached him.
"I am selling cucumbers for Tk 25 a kilogram and my purchase price was Tk 20 for the same quantity," claimed Hossen.
For green chillies, sellers demanded Tk 140 a kilogram from customers but claimed to have charged Tk 120 for the same to the market monitoring team.
After the tour of the market, the FBCCI concluded that the prices of essentials were high. “We observed that prices increased marginally. It is because of rain, traffic and the three-day weekend that affected the supply chain,” said Abdul Kashem Ahmed of FBCCI. He expects the prices of sugar to fall within a week because of a withdrawal of an import duty on the item.
“We are observing a problem with memos. Wholesalers told us earlier that they provide sales receipts. But retailers here say the wholesalers' claim is false,” he said.
Kamalunddin Ahmed, chairman of the price monitoring cell of FBCCI, said they are in talks with market committees to ensure a daily price list in every market to free consumers from paying unreasonable prices.