The prices of food commodities such as onion, rice, potato, flour, cinnamon, soybean oil, and milk have risen sharply in February compared to the same time in 2017.
Visiting the capital's Karwan Bazar, Hatirpool, Sukrabad, Rayer Bazar, Moghbazar, Naya Bazar, Shantinagar and Mohammadpur kitchen markets, this correspondent found out that the prices of commodities are soaring compared to last year.
Shopkeepers and vendors said they were selling goods at higher prices compared to previous years following stronger demand and fewer stocks across the country.
Azizul Islam, a shopkeeper at Sukrabad, said: “Now we are selling onion at Tk60-70 per kg that was Tk20-30 in the previous year; coarse rice is priced at a range of Tk44-48 and fine rice around Tk65.”
Asked what he thought of the cause of the hike in prices compared to last year, he said: “Products are not being delivered as per demand. We do not know more than this. We just sell to our customers.”
Onion was sold on Tuesday at Tk60-70 per kg in many markets, the price for which was around Tk20-28 on same day last year, according to Trading Corporation of Bangladesh (TCB).
Coarse rice was sold at Tk35-38 per kg and fine rice at Tk55-68 per kg, while they were priced at Tk42-45 and Tk48-56 respectively, on the same day last year, TCB mentioned.
Potato was sold at Tk20-25 per kg on Tuesday, price of which was Tk12-18 same time last year, TCB cited.
Wheat flour (atta) was sold at Tk28-38 and flour (moyda) at Tk45-48 per kg, prices of which were Tk26-34 and Tk38-40, respectively, at the same time in 2017.
Cinnamon was being sold Tk350-420 per kg as opposed to prices of Tk280-350 last year.
Five litres of soybean oil were being sold at Tk510-535 as opposed to Tk465-500 same time last year.
Beef was sold at Tk420-440 per kg last year as opposed to current prices of Tk480-500.
Mutton was being sold at Tk700-780 per kg, price for which was around Tk550-600 same time in 2017.
Local chicken local was being sold at Tk350-380 per kg but it had been sold at Tk330-360 last year.
Full cream instant milk powder (Dano) was being sold at Tk580-600 as opposed to prices of Tk560-585 same time last year, TCB mentioned.
The year 2017 witnessed vast sufferings of the people in low and fixed income groups, with the added pressure of the recent floods in the northeastern districts of the country, and the recent Rohingya issue.
Residents of Dhaka alleged that some unscrupulous businessmen created this situation in the market and drove up the prices by hoarding goods. Heavy rain and the recent flood resulted in crop damage and vegetable supply crunch multiplying woes of the people.
Tabassum Tania, a resident of Kalabagan in Dhaka, said: “We have to survive and there is no alternative to buying these goods. We are bound to buy whatever the price is.”
According to the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics, food production dropped by 943,000 tons in FY2016-17. Due the recent flood, crops, vegetables, livestock and fish stocks, and household food reserves have taken a major hit.
Floods and heavy rain damaged vegetables on 900 hectares of land for which farmers of 42 districts of the country suffered immensely.
SM Nazer Hossain, vice-president of the Consumer Association of Bangladesh, said: “Flood, the Rohingya issue, and the government's indifference are the causes behind these hike in prices.
“We are now especially dependent on India as we have become import dependent for these daily goods. That is why the prices have increased,” he also said.
“The prices have gone up because of manipulation by some unscrupulous businessmen. The government could bring the prices down by giving subsidies and instructing the Food Ministry to sell these goods in the open market. But we did not see such steps,” Nazer Hossain added.
He also said the government could sit with the people involved and look for alternative countries to India where prices for these goods are cheaper.
“The government should encourage farmers to cultivate more food and vegetables. They are not interested now to cultivate these following losses day after day. So the government must assist them directly and buy the food crops from them instead of third person,” he further said.