Despite adequate production and supply, prices of essential commodities, particularly vegetables and grocery items, have increased in Dhaka’s kitchen markets ahead of Ramadan.
This correspondent visited kitchen markets at Karwan Bazar, Hatirpool, Kaptanbazar, Farmgate, Shukrabad, Kalabagan and Mohammadpur and found that the prices of aubergines, tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, sugar, green chilis, papaya, garlic, ginger, and puffed rice have increased by Tk10-35 per kg on average, compared to their prices just a month ago.
According to state-run Trading Corporation of Bangladesh (TCB), the price of onions has increased to Tk35 from Tk25, garlic Tk100-120 from TK80-100, and ginger Tk80 from Tk70.
Asked about the phenomenon, Mohammad Salman, manager of a wholesale store in Karwan Bazar, said increases in the prices of essential commodities ahead of Ramadan are not unusual.
“The main reason behind the price hikes is that most restaurant owners as well as household customers buy their essentials right before the beginning of Ramadan. We have enough seasonal goods in stock, but the out-of-season essentials cause problems,” he told the Dhaka Tribune.
Md Sobhan Daptari, a vegetable trader in Karwan Bazar, said, “I have seen this price hike happen every year over the past 20 years of my business here.
“Prices of some vegetables and food items shoot up as the demand for them increases during Ramadan. Besides, traders take advantage of the high demand for out-of-season produce during Ramadan to charge higher prices.”
However, business has generally not been good as there have been fewer customers than usual, Sobhan said.
“Retail hawkers are carrying the produce and dry items via rickshaw vans to residential areas and are able to sell at cheaper rates as they don’t have to worry about overhead costs,” he lamented.
Asifur Rahman, a customer shopping at Kaptanbazar kitchen market, said, “I’ve noticed that prices of daily essentials come down in different Muslim countries during Ramadan, but the opposite happens in our country. Something must be done about it,” he told the Dhaka Tribune.
SM Nazer Hossain, vice-president of Consumers Association of Bangladesh (CAB), said the prices had increased due to the lack of surveillance by the authorities concerned.
“Prices in wholesale markets depend on ringleaders. They store essential goods for many days in advance to make huge profits, even though they are not allowed to store any product for more than 60 days. The government does not take action against the big traders who are involved in such unscrupulous practices. These retailers have to sell their products at high prices because they buy them at high prices,” he said.
Commerce Minister Tofail Ahmed recently said the prices of essential commodities would not change during Ramadan because supply would be higher than demand.
The minister also urged traders not to create any artificial crisis of daily essentials during Ramadan, and instead to keep the prices stable.
When contacted, Md Shafiqul Islam Laskar, director general of the Directorate of National Consumer Rights Protection department under the Ministry of Commerce, said: “If traders are found to sell essentials at higher prices than normal, stern action will be taken against them. We will also charge a fine up to Tk50,000 if traders are found selling essentials at prices beyond the Maximum Retail Price (MRP).
“However, we cannot do anything about vegetable traders as the prices depend on the supply of produce,” he added.