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Commodity prices rising before Ramadan; consumers at bay

Food 2024-02-27, 7:46pm

vegetables-on-dividers-of-fish-enclosures-in-satkhira-6d6164d6308b2e82545811b0b18d23791709041599.jpg

Vegetables on sale in Dhaka City



Dhaka, Feb 27 -The prices of several essential commodities whose consumption goes up during the Ramadan – the fasting month for Muslims – have continued to rise ins spite of government’s rein-in measures, according to a market survey.

During visits to a number of kitchen markets in the capital city this correspondent found that the even commodities where the government recently decreased VAT and tax rates are selling at higher prices.

Interviews of traders at kitchen markets such as Karwan Bazar, Mohakhali, Fakirapool, Shanti Nagar, Malibagh, Rampura, and Banasree, the correspondent found a pattern of steady price hike of different consumer items the last few months.

On Tuesday, local garlic was selling at Tk 250 per kg, up from Tk 150 during the same time last year in these markets.

Local turmeric was selling sold at Tk 300 per kg, which was Tk 240 two months ago. Imported turmeric was selling at Tk 290 per kg,  a rise by TK 80 from last year’s price. The local ginger was available at TK 280 per kg, which was Tk200 per kg last year.

A review of the commodity prices in the retail market showed that sugar was available at Tk 135 per kg in November, but it was being sold at Tk 140-150 a kg in February this year. Good quality lentils were selling at Tk 130 per kg in November and Tk 140 in February. Chickpeas were selling at Tk 85 per kg in November and Tk 110 in February.

In case of edible oils, open (loose) soybean oil was available at Tk 150 per litre in November. This increased to Tk 160 in February. Bottled soybean oil sold at Tk 168 per litre in November, and Tk 172 in February. Tunisian dates sold at Tk 300 per kg in November but now it is being sold at Tk 600 per kg in February.

In November, onion sold at Tk 130 per kg. At the beginning of February, it was selling at Tk90-100, but now it was being sold at a maximum of Tk120 per kg.

Besides, broiler chickens were selling at Tk 200 per kg, while the price was Tk185 in November. The price of beef has been decreasing since November. At that time, per kg beef was sold at Tk700.

Towfiqul Islam Khan, senior research fellow of the Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) told UNB that in Bangladesh once the price is up it never goes down.

As an example, he said that in 2013, rice was selling at Tk 36 per kg. It increased to Tk 70 in 2022. In the fiscal year 2023-24, it jumped to Tk80-85 per kg. Similarly, the prices of meat, poultry chicken, soybean oil, eggs, and almost all daily commodities have increased.

Besides, ‘’The rate of inflation has increased over time. The average inflation rate from 2012 to 2022 was 6.05 percent per year. The inflation rate in 2023 was calculated at 9.02 percent, while the second-highest rate of the decade was 9.93 percent in last October. In this case, the rate of food inflation is higher,’’ he pointed out.

According to a 2023 report from the World Bank 71 percent of Bangladeshi families are currently worried about the increase in food prices. In addition, rising commodity prices are limiting or reducing the purchasing power of people.

The rising cost of living has pushed a section of the population below the poverty line. Abnormal rise in prices of daily commodities is affecting everyone from the middle class to the upper class.

Economist Dr Ahsan H. Mansur told UNB that the market remains unregulated despite the government's various measures to stabilise commodity prices such as market monitoring, OMS, issuance of TCB cards, and operation of mobile courts.

The market regulation will be fruitful while importers would get US dollars at a fixed rate from banks and printing of currencies curbed to a minimum level, he said.

The executive director of the Policy Research Institute (PRI) said that the central bank is taking initiatives late and implementation of those measures is also getting delayed. As a result the policy on the economy is not working.

Golam Rahman, president of the Consumers Association of Bangladesh (CAB) said that the prices of all types of products have increased in the market. Prices of daily necessities including have also increased.

As a result, even if the income does not increase, the expenses of all classes of people are increasing, he said.

‘’The concerned should see whether the price of the product has increased logically or not. If any irregularities are found, the dishonest should be brought under the law and the consumer should be relieved,’’ said the CAB President.- UNB