With incomes decreased amid the Covid-19 pandemic, consumers' purchasing capacity has nosedived significantly with no signs of rebounding any time soon
Defying the government’s fixed rate of Tk30 per kilogram, traders are selling potatoes at Tk50-60 in the capital's kitchen markets, shoving the consumers' backs against the wall.
With incomes decreased amid the Covid-19 pandemic, consumers' purchasing capacity has nosedived significantly with no signs of rebounding any time soon. But lack of monitoring by the concerned authorities is forcing essential commodities like potatoes to spiral out of control.
For the past several weeks, no commodities, including rice and vegetables, were found selling below Tk50 per kg.
According to the Trading Corporation of Bangladesh (TCB), the prices of more than 10 items increased in a week - including eggs, lentil, broiler chicken, ginger, potatoes, chickpeas, edible oil, onions, rice, etc.
Among them, potato prices skyrocketed by 111% from last year, while coarse rice prices also hiked 41%.
A month ago, the price of a kilogram of potatoes was Tk26. Three months ago it was below Tk20 per kg, while it was retailing yesterday for Tk50-52 per kg.
In the face of soaring prices of potatoes, the Department of Agricultural Marketing on Wednesday directed all Deputy Commissioners (DCs) for taking steps so that potatoes are sold at Tk30 per kilogram.
Green chillies, which was Tk80 per kg during the same month last year, was now being sold at Tk280-300 per kg.
Besides, the price of vegetables also rose in recent weeks.
Visiting several markets yesterday, this correspondent found aubergines retailing for Tk80-120 a kg, okra for Tk75-80 a kg, beans for Tk85-100 a kg, tomatoes for Tk120-140 a kg, and both cauliflowers and cabbages for Tk50 a kg. The price of eggs sold for Tk 37-38 for four-pieces.
Prices of other commodities remain high
The price of other commodities remained high over the week as well.
A litre of unpacked soybean oil sold for Tk90-95 a litre, bottled soybean oil sold for Tk108-110 and palm oil sold for Tk85-86 a litre.
The prices of fine variety red lentils sold for Tk125 a kg, the medium-quality variety for Tk90-95 a kg and the coarse variety for Tk65-70 a kg.
The prices of BR-28 rice sold for Tk 54-55 a kg, while both Miniket and Najirshail sold for Tk56-65 a kg.
Meanwhile, traders repeated the same reasons of supply shortage and off-season of several items for the high price in the kitchen markets.
Middle, low income groups struggle
Moinul Miya, a trader at Madhubagh, said: “We are retailers and have nothing to do if the prices increase in the wholesale market. But I think the syndicates are behind the hike.”
“Sometimes I feel sad when I observe people are buying lesser items than usual, often reducing quantities from a kg to half kg. But I am helpless as well,” he lamented.
Rehnuma Akter, a garment worker from Rampura who gets Tk10,000 per month admitted her inability to buy at least one vegetable.
“I have to pay 50% salary for my house rent each month. Earlier, I had to depend on potatoes and lentils. But now even those are out of my reach," she said.
“I sometimes wait to buy near-rotten vegetables from a rickshaw van at a lower price. I do not visit the kitchen markets anymore as the prices are beyond my capacity,” said Wasim Khan, a street hawker.
Consumers Association of Bangladesh (CAB) President Golam Rahman said: “The government should take strict measures against syndicates behind commodity price manipulations. As most people have lost their purchasing abilities during pandemic, this dishonest practice traders should be controlled. Otherwise disaster will follow.”