Tuesday, May 28, 2024


Dhaka Tribune

Long queues for TCB trucks, as price hikes batter middle class

The prices of almost all essential commodities have gone up, making it difficult for the common people to meet their daily needs

Update : 07 Oct 2021, 08:10 PM

Price hike of essentials in Bangladesh, particularly in Dhaka, has dealt a double blow to the poor and the middle-income groups who have been already hit hard by unemployment and pay cuts due to Covid-19.

"The sufferings, caused by the unusual price hike, are even more for the middle-class people like us as we cannot say that we have little or no food at home,” said Hasan Jamil (not his real name) in his mid-50s.

The prices of almost all essential commodities have gone up, making it difficult for the common people to meet their daily needs.

The soaring prices of essentials such as rice, lentil, onion, and vegetables, are forcing many to rush to the open market sale (OMS) conducted by Trading Corporation of Bangladesh (TCB) trucks to buy the commodities at lower prices.

Alauddin, a private bank employee, told UNB: “I do not know how to cope with the rising prices with my limited income. Even if the monthly expenses are reduced, I have to spend an extra Tk2,000 per month to buy essentials.

Also Read - Onion and chili prices skyrocket again

“No one will understand the agonies of people like us. Prices are skyrocketing but our salaries do not increase every year,” he said.

Alauddin was standing in a queue to buy goods from a TCB truck. 

“I do not think I will be able to buy anything today as the queue is so long here. Yesterday I waited for an hour in a queue behind a TCB truck at Malibagh and returned home empty-handed.”

Like Alauddin, many low and middle-income consumers are feeling the pinch of price hikes across the country.

Crowds behind the TCB trucks are growing day by day.

Visiting different spots in the city, UNB found queues in front of each TCB truck that were much longer than before.

Some TCB dealers said low-income people, especially day-labourers, rickshaw-pullers, drivers or housemaids used to come to buy daily essentials at low prices earlier. 

But now the middle-class people are also crowding to buy products standing in queues, mounting pressure on the sellers.

Visiting different kitchen markets in the city on Tuesday, UNB found that coarse lentil was selling at Tk88-90 per kg which could be bought at Tk75-80 barely a week ago. In January, this quality of lentils was sold at Tk65-70 per kg.

Although the government fixed the price of unpacked sugar at Tk74 per kg and the packed ones at Tk75 a kg, it is not available at this price. 

Unpacked sugar is now selling at Tk80 per kg, while the packed ones at Tk85-90 per kg.

Besides, soybean and palm oil prices have also shot up at an unusual rate. Now non-bottled soybean oil is selling at Tk140-142 per litre, which was Tk137-138 in the beginning of September. In January, it was sold at Tk122-124 per litre.

Bottled soybean oil is now selling at Tk153-160 per litre which was Tk145-149 per litre till last August. In January, bottled soybean oil was available at Tk 130-135 per litre.

Along with the soybean oil, the price of palm oil has also gone up. Palm loose and super oil are currently selling at Tk134-136 per litre. Until August, it was selling at Tk122-128 and Tk100-112 per litre.

However, TCB is selling soybean oil at Tk100 per litre and lentil and sugar at Tk55 per kg. In wet markets, soybean oil is selling at Tk150 per litre, sugar at Tk78 per kg and two types of lentils at Tk100 and Tk80 per kg.

Md Kamal, a TCB dealer who sells items at Meradia, Dhaka, said: “People flock to us when the prices of essential items go up. Usually, we sell to low-income people. The scenario is different now. Many middle-class people are crowding here as the prices are less than those in the kitchen markets.

“Once we had to wait till the evening to sell off all the products. Now our stocks run out in a couple of hours. Many consumers have to return empty handed as our allocation is much less than the demand,” the TCB dealer said.

Humayun Kabir, a TCB senior executive, told UNB that TCB is now supplying 10-12% of the products against the demand which was only 1-2% in the past. There has been a steep rise in sales through OMS trucks due to the growing demand.

Also Read - Prices of commodities, including vegetables, remain high

Kabir said TCB products are sold throughout the year and the sales volumes are expected to increase gradually.

TCB officials also said the goods are sold from the Dhaka regional office through dealers in 74 trucks in several surrounding districts, including the city areas.

Each truck usually sells 600 litres of soybean oil, 500 kgs of sugar and 400 kgs of lentil a day.

Prior to Covid-19, Bangladesh had made solid strides in poverty reduction over the last few decades, cutting poverty incidence from 50.4% in 1990 to 20.5% in 2019, according to a UNDP report.

It says the impacts of Covid-19 combined with stringent containment measures have seriously impacted the country’s long-standing macroeconomic stability, disrupted people’s livelihoods, and raised poverty to 40.9% in 2020. 

With about 20 million “new poor”, there could be about 90 million people, who are under severe poverty stress due to the pandemic, the report adds.

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