Wholesalers and retailers at different kitchen markets in the capital said the list of items facing a price hike may grow longer. Due to devaluation of the taka against the US dollar, prices of all imported consumer products would soar again in the coming days.

Keeping similar pace with imported Indian onions, the local variety also jumped from Tk 30-35 to Tk 40-45 per kg in the last week. The price of coarse lentils rose by Tk 5 to Tk 100 per kg over the last two days. Local lentils are now selling at Tk 130 per kg while the price was Tk 120 before Eid.

Each kg of loose sugar, which was selling at Tk 80 immediately after the Eid festival, rose by Tk 2 to Tk 82 on Thursday. The price of loose wheat flour (atta) also increased Tk 2 to Tk 40-42 per kg while loose white flour (maida) jumped Tk 5 to Tk 60 per kg.

Packaged powdered milk is ahead of all in the price hike as it witnessed a surge of Tk 50-60 over the previous few days. The consumers are paying Tk 690 to Tk 750 per kg of powdered milk.

What the consumers and retailers say

In a conversation at the capital’s Khilkhet kitchen market on Thursday afternoon, housewife Nilufa Yasmin said she bought a 2-litre bottle of soybean oil at Tk 395, 2 kg of lentils at Tk 220, 2 kg of wheat flour at Tk 80, 3 kg of local onions at Tk 120, and a dozen of eggs at Tk 115 from a grocery shop named Mahin General Store.

She had to pay Tk 930 in total to complete the whole purchase. She could have saved Tk 139 on the same items had she gone to the kitchen market a week back. Now she is worried about meeting the monthly expenses of her family.

Nilufa Yasmin told Prothom Alo that she had been avoiding local produced lentils for long. Now she has excluded local eggs too from her grocery cart. She also refrained from buying packaged flour and turned to the loose flour.

“There is no relief. The price of everything goes up after a few days. Isn't there anything for the government to do to control the market?” she said, venting her frustration.

Main Uddin, the proprietor of Mahin General Store, said prices of some commodities soar every week. If asked, the wholesalers blame increased cost of production and import.

He also said the consumers pull a long face if they are charged extra price for any product at the retail shops. The customers blame the retailers, which in cases lead to altercation between two sides.

Main Uddin collects essentials from Zakir Traders, a wholesale shop in Gazipur’s Tongi Bazar. When approached, the wholesaler, Zakir Hossain, said that the price of lentils is going up as the commodity is being imported at a high price. Then why is the price of local lentils soaring? Zakir argued there is a shortage in the supply of locally produced lentils, which is eventually pushing up its price.

However, the retailers claimed that the wholesalers are reaping benefits from the crisis and hiked the price.

There is no supply shortage of local varieties of lentils. As the price of imported lentils soared, the wholesalers intentionally raised the price of local varieties, they said.

Pungent prices of onion

During a visit to the kitchen markets in the capital’s Karwan Bazar, Mohakhali, Khilkhet, Uttara Sector-11 and Sector-6, each kg of local and Indian onions was found selling at the same price at Tk 40-45.

The retailers who stored the onions a week back were charging the consumers Tk 40 for each kg. On the other hand, the shops that collected the onions recently on Tuesday or Wednesday were taking Tk 45 for each kg of onions.

The traders say the onion price jumped in both the retail and wholesale markets due to suspension of import from India.

The wholesale price of homegrown onions was Tk 210 per 5 kg at the Karwan Bazar kitchen market on Thursday while the imported variety was Tk 200 per 5 kg. Meantime, the retailers were selling each kg of locally produced onions at Tk 45 while the imported onions at Tk 38.

Before the Eid, each maund (40 kg approx) of local onion sold at Tk 900 to Tk 1,000 at different haats of Pabna, one of the country's prominent onion production hubs. The selling price was found Tk 1,200 to Tk 1,400 at the same spots on Thursday, which implies that the onion price rose by Tk 30-35 at the local haat level.

About the sudden surge in onion price, the president of Hili land port importers and exporters association, Harun-ur-Rashid, said the permission for import of onions from India was valid till 30 April. Later, the department of agricultural extension extended the permission till 5 May. But it has not been extended further.

The onion market would return to normalcy once the authorities extend the permission, he added.

Powdered milk awaits another jump

Visiting different groceries at Sector-6 in Uttara, the packaged milk powder of different brands were found to be sold at Tk 690 to Tk 750. The retailers said the milk packets that are now bearing a price tag of Tk 690 used to sell at Tk 650 just a month ago while those of Tk 750 were selling at Tk 690 to Tk 700.

A sales representative of a milk powder supplier company told Prothom Alo that the latest retail price of their milk powder was set at Tk 790 per kg a week back. Those packets have not been supplied to the market yet. It means that the price of powdered milk will go up further.

He also said they were briefed by the company that the retail price is surging due to high import costs inflicted by increased dollar exchange rate.

Meanwhile, the price of eggs surged too. A hali (four) of farm chicken eggs are now selling for Tk 40 when the price was Tk 36 in the previous week. When it comes to a dozen, the price rose from Tk 105 to Tk 112.

Md Tipu Ali, a retailer at Karwan Bazar, told Prothom Alo on Thursday, “Everything is expensive in the market, what difference will it make if the price of eggs goes up too!”

According to the trading corporation of Bangladesh (TCB), the egg price jumped 15 per cent in the last one year. The price of each hali of egg, which ranged between Tk 28 and Tk 32 just a year ago, stood at Tk 32 to Tk 35 on 10 April this year.

The TCB said prices of 15 food items rose 1.5 per cent to 38.5 per cent in the previous week. The commodities include white flour (maida), wheat flour (atta), edible oil, lentils, gram, potato, onions, garlic, dried chilli, turmeric, ginger, cumin, beef, chicken and eggs.

Rumana Haque, an economics department professor at Dhaka University, laid emphasis on proper market monitoring to control the rise in commodity prices.

“The current practice of market monitoring is -- sometimes a magistrate or concerned government officials conduct raids and imposes fines. Even this is not being done regularly. The measures taken by the government need to be geared up,” she said.

She also noted that there are flaws in the market supply system and suggested fixing those.

The government should take poor families into consideration as they become the worst sufferers of commodity price hike, added the professor.

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