Essentials’ prices go up ahead of Ramadan
Like clockwork, the prices of Ramadan essentials like edible oil, chickpea, dried pea, date and sugar have started to spiral in the lead-up to the holy month despite higher imports.
But the reason for the price rises this year appears to be a new one: an upward trend in the prices of the commodities in the global market, brought on by lower production in the exporting countries and higher shipping freight, according to traders and importers.
Import data from the Chattogram Custom House supports this, too.
Between December last year and January this year, the average import cost of palm oil released through the port stood at Tk 109,980 per tonne and that of soybean oil Tk 118,149 per tonne. A year earlier, it was Tk 69,860 and Tk 73,899 per tonne respectively.
During the period, the average import cost of sugar was Tk 51,332 per tonne, up 25.9 percent year-on-year.
Similarly, the average import cost of chickpea increased 16.8 percent year-on-year to Tk 54,320 per tonne during the period.
"There is no sign of shortage in supply of Ramadan items such as chickpea, pea and sugar -- there is ample stock," said Rafikul Islam, an importer and wholesale trader at Chattogram's Khatunganj market, one of the largest commodity hubs in the country.
The import of all essential commodities except edible oil have increased by 5 to 30 percent in the first seven months of the fiscal year, according to data from the Chattogram Custom House.
More than 9.16 lakh tonnes of edible oil including crude oil, soybean oil and refined palm oil were imported through the Chattogram port in the seven months to January, down 9.8 percent year-on-year.
Between July last year and January this year, about 1.44 lakh tonnes of chickpeas and about 3.05 lakh tonnes of dried peas were imported. A year earlier, their imported quantities were 1.33 lakh tonnes and 2.92 lakh tonnes respectively.
About 4.13 lakh tonnes of sugar were imported, up 35.4 percent year-on-year, according to Chattogram Custom House.
Some 49,350 tonnes of date, a non-negotiable Ramadan item, was brought into the country during the period, up 7.2 percent from a year earlier.
But retailers suddenly placed more orders before the wholesalers keeping Ramadan in mind, resulting in a slight increase in the prices of goods at the wholesale markets, Islam said.
In Bangladesh, Ramadan is scheduled to begin on April 2.
However, his import cost for commodities has also gone up of late.
For instance, it cost Islam Tk 40,326 per tonne to import dried peas in January, an increase of 37.6 percent from a year earlier.
Similarly, the import cost of chickpea was Tk 46,000 per tonne last year; this year, it was Tk 54,126 per tonne, he said.
As a result, the prices of all essential commodities have started creeping up.
The wholesale price of soybean oil has increased by Tk 350 per maund (about 37.3 kilograms) in a month to about Tk 6,100.
Similarly, palm oil now costs about Tk 5,600 to Tk 5,650 per maund, an increase of about Tk 400-Tk 420 in a month.
The price of sugar, another essential commodity, is now selling at Tk 2,660-Tk 2,680 a maund, up from Tk 2,600 a month back.
The wholesale price of chickpea has increased by Tk 150 per maund to about Tk 2,150. Similarly, dried peas are selling at Tk 20-30 per maund higher at about Tk 1,700 per maund.