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Alauddin, a private bank employee, told news agency UNB, “I don’t know how to cope with the rising prices with my limited income. Even if the monthly expenses are reduced, I’ve to spend an extra amount of Tk 2000 per month to buy essential items.”

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

“So, I’m here in the queue to buy goods from this TCB truck. And I don’t think I’ll 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.”

Once we had to wait till evening to sell off all the products. Now our stocks run out in a couple of hours. Many consumers return empty handed as our allocation is much less than the demand
Md Kamal, TCB dealer who sells items at Meradia, Dhaka

There is nothing unique in Alauddin’s story. Many low- and middle-income consumers are feeling the pinch of price hike across the country.

Crowding around the trucks run by the TCB is growing day by day making it hard for the TCB dealers to cope with the situation as the prices of rice, pulse, onion, sugar and other essential items keep soaring.

Queues in front of each TCB truck at different spots in the capital city were seen much longer than before.

Some sellers at TCB trucks 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.

Coarse lentil selling at Tk 88-90 per kg on Tuesday which could be bought at Tk 75-80 barely a week ago at different kitchen markets in the city. In January, the lentil was sold at Tk 65-70 per kg.

Although the government fixed the price of unpacked sugar at Tk 74 per kg and the packed one at Tk 75 a kg, it is not available at this price. Unpacked sugar is now selling at Tk 80 per kg, while the packed one at Tk 85-90 per kg.

Besides, soybean and palm oil prices have also shot up at an unusual rate. Non-bottled soybean oil is selling at Tk 140-142 per litre, which was Tk 137-138 in the beginning of September. In January, it was sold at Tk 122-124 per litre.

Bottled soybean oil is now selling at Tk 153-160 per litre which was Tk 145-149 per litre till August this year. 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 Tk 134-136 per litre. Until August, it was selling at Tk 122-128 and Tk 100-112 per litre.

However, TCB is selling soybean oil at Tk 100 per litre and lentil and sugar at Tk 55 per kg. In kitchen markets, soybean oil is selling at Tk 150 per litre, sugar at Tk 78 and two types of lentil at Tk 100 and Tk 80.

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

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

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

He said TCB products are sold throughout the year and the sale 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 lentils a day.

Prior to Covid 19 pandemic, Bangladesh made solid strides in poverty reduction over the last few decades, cutting poverty rate from 50.4 per cent in 1990 to 20.5 per cent 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 livelihood, and raised poverty to 40.9 per cent 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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