The escalated prices have hit home budgets in Dhaka, prompting residents to hold the government responsible for the "mismanagement" in the kitchen markets
When it comes to vegetables, the general rule is that you pay less in winter than in summer. But this season, the drop in mercury has failed to cool off the prices of essentials in the kitchen markets of the capital.
The escalated prices have hit home budgets in Dhaka, prompting residents to hold the government responsible for the "mismanagement" in the kitchen markets. They allege that traders at the big veggie markets in the city are fixing prices. Trades, however, attribute the surge in prices of essential commodities to short supply amid the Covid pandemic.
A reality check by UNB at Kaptan Bazar, Anondobazar, Jatrabari, Mogbazar and Sarulia Bazar on Tuesday revealed that traders have been selling Aubergine for Tk70-90 a kg, papaya for Tk35-40, bitter gourd for Tk80-90, bottle gourd for Tk50-70, beans for Tk100-120, radish for Tk60-70 , cucumber for Tk80 and tomato for Tk120.
Besides, the price of a kg of green chili has soared to Tk200-240. Similarly, carrots cost Tk80-100 a kg, four pieces of green banana Tk40-50 and four pieces of eggs Tk40-60. The prices of cauliflower and cabbage, two most popular winter vegetables, have also soared. Similarly, a kg of beef now costs Tk550-560, mutton Tk750-900, broiler chicken Tk130-140 and locally bred hens Tk450-500.
According to the Trading Corporation of Bangladesh (TCB) data, on November 9, the prices of coarse, medium and fine rice increased by 36.76, 15.56, and 12.87 percent, respectively, as compared to last winter.
The prices of coarse rice have increased to Tk45-48 a kilo from Tk28-40, medium to Tk48-56 a kilo from Tk42-48 and fine rice Tk54-60 a kilo from Tk45-56, compared to 2019. Besides, each kg of palm oil has increased by 36.30 percent from Tk65-70 and soybean oil has risen by 19.88 percent from Tk76-85 year-on-year, as per the data.
The state-run organisation’s data further showed that the price of each kg of lentil has increased by 35.71 percent while potato prices have gone up by 77.08 percent as compared to the corresponding period last year. Sugar prices have increased by 7.76 percent and hilsa fish by 21.43 percent year-on-year.
Al-Amin Siam, a resident of Demra, said the prices of each essential have gone up abnormally in the city. “Though it’s winter, the prices of all vegetables are double compared to other years. We have to purchase a cluster of red spinach at Tk20-30, taro stem at Tk30, water amaranth at Tk20-25, Indian spinach and stem amaranth at Tk30-40,” he said.
Amina Begum, a resident of Bangshal, said they are going through a difficult time due to the increasing vegetable prices amid the Covid-induced financial crisis.
“We can’t purchase vegetables and other essentials in plenty due to the price hike. The government should control the market by strengthening the monitoring systems. Besides, farmers should be encouraged to cultivate more products and the government must support them financially,” she said.
Despite imported onions coming into Dhaka kitchen markets, why their prices have still not gone down, Amina questioned. “Likewise, despite the government fixed potato prices, we are purchasing the vegetable for Tk45-60 a kg and onions for Tk80-100 a kg."
As usual, traders blamed supply shortage amid the pandemic. Abu Yousuf, a wholesaler at Kawran Bazar, said some beans, cauliflower, cabbage and other winter vegetables have started to enter the kitchen markets. "But a demand-supply gap has been driving the vegetable prices high. We hope the prices will come down soon."
Executive Director of the South Asian Network on Economic Modeling (SANEM) Dr Selim Raihan said the government agencies should monitor the prices of essentials at major markets of the city throughout the year properly.
“There is a problem in coordination among the agriculture-related departments. There are no data matches among the organisations, including Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS) and Department of Agricultural Extension (DAE), that’s why it’s tough to estimate the supply of essentials here. So, syndicates take advantage of this problem," he said.
According to Ahsan H Mansur, Executive Director of the Policy Research Institute of Bangladesh, October's 6.44 percent inflation was the highest in the past seven years, amid the coronavirus pandemic. “In rural areas, inflation was 6.67 percent, while it was 6.3 in urban areas. The general inflation was 5.97 and food inflation 6.5 percent in September."
Suggesting to bring the country's 2.23 lakh hector unutilized land under cultivation, Dhaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DCCI) president Shams Mahmud said small entrepreneurs involved in fish production, poultry and dairy industry should be engaged in the value chain essential for maintaining fair prices.
He urged the government to establish specialised technology-based modern supply chain infrastructure, ensuring Good Agricultural Practice (GAP) including training, providing fiscal incentives and adequate policy support to the farmers, and strengthening BSTI.
Mahmud advocated market research and capacity building of private sector producers and processors. “Investments both from the private sector and abroad in the agro-processing businesses will help boost product diversification, innovation and new market expansion," he added.