Higher prices hit pockets

The prices of daily essentials have kept going up in Dhaka and other parts of the country, hitting the pockets of consumers hard.

It has caused an additional misery for the general public at a time when they have just returned to normal life on the back of receding coronavirus cases.

During visits to several kitchen markets in the capital, it was found that the price of rice, pulses, oil, flour, sugar and other daily necessities have gone up this week compared to a week ago.

Data from the state-run Trading Corporation of Bangladesh (TCB) also showed a similar trend.

The price of miniket rice has gone up by Tk 2 to Tk 3 per kilogramme (kg) since last week, when it was sold at Tk 68 per kg, according to various retailers.

Similarly, potatoes are selling at Tk 26 per kg, up by about Tk 2 from a week ago.

However, the runaway cost of cooking oil is hurting consumers the most.

Loose soybean oil is being sold at Tk 145 per litre, up from Tk 140 a week ago, and bottled soybean is priced at Tk 160 per litre, up from Tk 155 previously.

Large-sized lentils are being sold at Tk 100 per kg, up from Tk 95 a week ago, while the medium-sized variety is selling for Tk 110 per kg, a Tk 10 increase from the previous price.

The local variety of lentil is being retailed at Tk 130 per kg while it was Tk 120 a week ago.

Coarse flour, known as atta, is being sold at Tk 38 per kg with an increase of Tk 3. The price of branded flour has gone up by Tk 5 per kg to Tk 55 at the same time.

According to the TCB, the price of branded flour has risen by 13.33 per cent per kg. Similarly, the price of sugar has increased from Tk 80 to Tk 90 per kg.

Abu Taher, a resident in Mohammadpur, says the cost of essentials has almost doubled due to the recent surge in prices, forcing him to cut down consumption.

“If the price hike continues, it will not be possible for my family to live in Dhaka.”

Chandan Dev, who works in a private company in Chattogram, echoed the sentiment.

He said he was disappointed at the growing gap between income and expense.

“The cost of living has gone up a lot. I am afraid that the effects will be even more terrible in the future because once the price of a product goes up in Bangladesh, it usually does not come down,” said the father of a newborn.

Darul Huda, who lives in Kalshi, says there is no sign for vegetables prices to cool despite the arrival of winter crops.

In a welcoming development, the price of eggs, broiler chicken and onions have declined.

In the span of a week, the price of chicken has fallen by at least Tk 15 per kg and that of eggs by at least Tk 15 per dozen.

Abdul Matin, owner of Siddique Broiler House in Karwan Bazar, credited the rising supply of chickens from farms for the decline in prices.

The price of domestic and imported onions has fallen by Tk 5 per kg, said Abidur Rahman, a retailer at the Mirpur-11 kitchen market.

The local variety of onions is being sold at Tk 55 per kg, down from Tk 60 a week ago, while the key cooking item imported from India is being sold at Tk 45 to Tk 50, which was Tk 50 previously.

Abul Hossain, a trader at Doaripara Bazar in Mirpur, said the price of essential items has gone up in wholesale markets.

“As prices are skyrocketing, it is not possible to sell products at rates fixed by the government,” he added.

Md Shafiul Ather Taslim, director for finance and operation at TK Group, one of the leading importers and processors of commodities in Bangladesh, blamed the abnormal price hike of rice, lentil and flour in the international market for the higher domestic prices.

“The current price trend will continue until January-February.”

He says import costs have surged for the abnormal hike in commodity prices.

Globally, the commodity costs have rocketed in recent months owing to the recovery in global demand, unprecedented shipping freight rates, and supply constraints.

Six months ago, lentils were selling at $435 per tonne but it now costs $1,080. Similarly, the price of flour rose to $400 per tonne from $240, Taslim said.

Nurnabi Rubel, proprietor of Bismillah Trading in the Karwan Bazar kitchen market, put the average increase in the price of daily essentials at 5-9 per cent in the last one month. The hike was even higher in the case of some products.

“Ordinary people are going through difficult times for everything,” said Ghulam Rahman, president of the Consumers Association of Bangladesh.

“If the price of daily essentials continues to rise, its negative impact on the lives of the people will deepen.”

He called on the government to take robust measures to rein in prices.

Selim Raihan, executive director of the South Asian Network on Economic Modeling, said many ordinary people were gradually recovering from the pandemic-induced crisis but the hike in the price of essentials had become an additional burden for them.

“We don’t have much to do about the rising prices of products in the international market. But the government can reduce taxes wherever it can. The tools that government policymakers have at their disposal can be put to good use now.”

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