Market lukewarm to price pledges
Despite high expectations over essentials' price-drop after power handover to the new government, market responses remain lukewarm.
The prices of some basic commodities like rice and edible oil fell in the local market recently. The onset of this year's Aman harvest and the fall in the price of soybean oil on the global market explain the fall, traders said yesterday.
Over the last two weeks, the price of coarse rice dropped over 12 percent, currently priced between Tk 24 to Tk 27. The price of fine and medium quality rice has also declined as Aman rice has started entering the market. The supply of Boro's old stock is also available in the market.
The new government's pledges to reduce the prices of essentials and an overall drop in global commodity prices have heightened consumers' expectations about price cuts, traders said.
The price of soybean oil, for both the pre-packed and open variety, slumped by 15 to 20 percent since December 28, 2008, according to Trading Corporation of Bangladesh data.
A rice wholesaler at Karwan Bazar was reluctant to give early credit to the new government and said: "The government has not put in place any measures yet to reduce the farmers' cost of production."
The trader said he had to face hassles with buyers over the prices of commodities, due to the government's pledge to offer rice at a substantially lower price. “How could I offer rice at a low price if I had to buy it at a high price,” he questioned. The recent slump in rice prices was because of the arrival of Aman in the market.
The bumper Boro and Aman crops ceased hoarding by a section of traders, he said.
On the other hand, the prices of some other essentials like potato, onion and winter vegetables surged as high as 100 percent in the last two weeks, amid a scarce supply.
Vegetables such as potatoes, onions, beans, cauliflowers and tomatoes have become dearer in the city markets. Low-income groups are crossing out winter vegetables from their grocery lists as they choose not to afford the higher prices.
“A trip to the bazaar is quite upsetting. I bought a kilogram of potato for Tk 16 two weeks ago. Now it costs me at least Tk 24 for the same quantity,” said an angry housewife from a low-income family, at a makeshift market in the Lalbagh area.
Traders said the foggy weather is partly to blame for the shortage in supply of certain vegetables, increasing fear among farmers.
The prices of onions, a bulk of which comes from India, also soared in local markets, following the jump in prices in the Indian market. The twofold price hike was also due to erratic weather conditions, according to the Indian media.
A kilogram of imported onion is now available at about Tk 34 to Tk 36, up by17 percent, since December 28, 2008, the last day before the ninth parliamentary election.
“No-one can guarantee the price cut of vegetables. It's all centres around supply. The market will ease when supply is adequate,” said a vegetables retailer at Karwan Bazar, the biggest wholesale hub for vegetables in the capital.
Wholesalers at Karwan Bazar said the prices of potatoes have shot up after the potato plantations suffered bad weather conditions. Beans, cauliflowers and some other winter vegetables followed suit.
Abdul Mannan, general secretary of the Karwan Bazar Perishable Items Wholesalers Association, claimed that potato production suffers from dense fog and onion prices soar because the price of the item went high in India.
A kilogram of beans, which was available at Tk 12 to Tk 20 two weeks ago, is selling at Tk 28 to Tk 36 now. Prices of other vegetables, like cauliflowers and bottle guards, have bloated by almost double in the recent past. A large sized cauliflower is sold at about Tk 30, as of Tk 15 from the last week of December 2008.
Mannan however expected that vegetables prices would decline as the prices of other major essentials are on the downturn.
But Shah Alam, a vegetables retailer from Lalbagh area, believed that prices would not drop unless the government embarks upon moves to reduce the farmers' cost of production and make fertilisers readily available.