Market remains out of control, no respite

A visit to 10 markets in Dhaka shows price of most of the daily necessities are still high

Market price

“The aman crop will be better. The field is looking beautiful with ripe rice,” said planning minister MA Mannan to newspersons after a meeting of Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (ECNEC) in November last year. He also hoped the price of the staple crop would come down after the aman harvest.

But the aman crop has been harvested. Even the boro crop has also been harvested now but the rice prices are not decreasing. Instead, the price has gone up by Tk 2 per kg in May despite bumper yield in aman and boro crops. No flash floods even damaged rice in the haor regions.

Prices of most of the daily necessities are stable in the market, though high. The prices of one or two items are decreasing but it is nowhere near the price that was before this spell of steep rise. In some cases, the price of a few items is increasing too. Overall, people have no respite as their expenses are not coming down to a bearable level.

For example, the lowest price of coarse rice per kg was Tk 30 on 1 January 2020. The price was Tk 46-52 in January this year. But now it stands at Tk 48-50. The price of fine rice also has increased in the same way.

This correspondent talked to a consumer at Azampur Bazar in Uttara, Dhaka on Thursday. He is a unit manager of an insurance company. Wishing not to reveal his name, the person told Prothom Alo that the situation is worse than having one's back to the wall, due to the price hike. He said back is broken now.

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He said his salary has increased a bit but the market price has increased a lot. That is why he is struggling to run his three-member family.

Market price: 2020 v 2023

To understand the market situation and trends, the prices mentioned by Trading Corporation Bangladesh (TCB) on 1 January 2020 and on 1 January 2023 and the prices at markets on 22 June 2023 were analysed. At the same time, four correspondents of Prothom Alo visited the markets at Mirpur-1, Azampur in Uttara, Mohakhali, Shahjahanpur, Malibagh, Rampura, Shyambazar, Sutrapur, Paschim Agargaon and Karwan Bazar.

Traders and shoppers said the prices of some products have somehow come down a bit in the last two months. For example, despite announcing that the soybean oil price will be reduced by Tk 10 per litre, the price has actually come down only by Tk 5 per litre. The price of sugar has increased.

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This fluctuation in prices does not bode well for the people. The price was much less before the onslaught of Covid-19 pandemic and Russia-Ukraine war. The price of soybean oil per litre was Tk 100-110 at the beginning on 2020 but this increased to Tk 190-195 now. The situation is almost the same in cases of sugar, flour (atta), lentils, fish, eggs and meat. Prices of daily necessities like soap, shampoo, toothpaste and tissue paper also have soared.

The price hike started in the country from the first quarter in 2020. The coronavirus pandemic started from March that year. Panic buying led to price hike that time. Despite this the inflation rate was not unbridled in 2020 and 2021.

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Following Russia’s attack on Ukraine in February 2022, the global supply chain was hampered. This led to hike in prices of fuel oil, gas and food stuff. Inflation started to rise globally too.

The prices of fuel and foodgrain have come down in the global market significantly in the middle of 2023 but Bangladesh is not getting any benefit of this. The dollar exchange rate has increased from Tk 86 to Tk 113 (at the import level) within a year. At the same time, businessmen are not getting sufficient dollars to import products. As a result, prices of foodgrain, raw materials for industrial products, animal feed has soared. This has increased the cost of livelihood.

Speaking at a programme, commerce minister Tipu Munshi on Thursday said the government has been trying heart and soul to keep the prices of daily necessities within the reach of people. But the products that are imported have to be sold by coordinating with the global market.

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He said the soybean oil price has been decreased as soon as it decreased in the global market. The oil is now being sold at the reduced rate price, he claimed.

Economists, however, said it is not right to blame the global market for soaring prices of daily necessities as the price of almost all commodities has come down in the global market. The reason of the current inflation is the increase in the dollar exchange rate, the dollar crunch, and increased cost of production and transportation as the government raised the price of oil, gas and electricity in the country.

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As per a report of Bangladesh Trade and Tariff Commission (BTTC), a body of the commerce ministry, the decrease in price of products in the domestic market is not equal to that of the global market.

The government raised the prices of oil, gas and electricity several times when the country was at the most critical phase of inflation.

Traders said their sale and profit has decreased due to increased prices. Zakir Hossian, owner of Mayer Doa General Store-1 at Shah Ali Market in Mirpur-1, said to Prothom Alo that a number of his regular customers now shop at supershops. A section of his customers stay in messes sending their families to the villages as they could not afford the costs, he added.

In a recent report the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS) said the urban to rural exodus has doubled in a year.

Speaking about his condition, Zakir Hossain said, “I used to buy a tin of infant formula for Tk 1750. The price has now risen to Tk 3300.”

‘Don’t you understand my condition?’

Housewife Shahinur went to buy eggs at Sutrapur market in old Dhaka on Thursday. She bought two cracked eggs at Tk 20. This saves her Tk 3.

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Shahinur said omelettes of the two eggs will be the meal for her five-member family in the afternoon. She further said she stopped the education of her three children during the Covid pandemic. Recently she sent her son to a work and two girls stay at home.

“Five persons will eat with two eggs. Don’t you understand my condition?” said Shahinur while leaving.