Market prices high this Ramadan

Prothom Alo illustration

Sugar was sold at Tk 78 to Tk 80 a kg on the first day of last Ramadan, but now the price has increased by Tk 37 to Tk 40 a kg to Tk 115 to Tk 120 a kg before Ramadan.

People consume more sugar during Ramadan than any time of the year as it is used in juice and other dishes. There is a demand of 150,000 tonnes of sugar in the country every month, according to Bangladesh Trade and Tariff Commission, with demand rising to 300,000 tonnes in Ramadan. Since price of sugar has increased, people will have to bear the additional cost.

Not only for sugar, people will have to spend more on wheat flour (atta), refined wheat flour (maida), dried chillies, turmeric, fish, meat and eggs this Ramadan. People will need to higher budget to buy these. The price of several commodities has increased over the past week ahead of Ramadan. Though the prices of many goods did not rise, these were high from beforehand.

Ramadan will begin in Bangladesh on Friday and people have already started shopping. Traders, however, said sales are not that high because the low-income people are struggling. Speaking to Prothom Alo, Md Rubel, a salesman of grocery shop Gazi Store at capital’s Malibagh, said there sales are not that high this Ramadan; perhaps, people have less money now.

On 19 March, a report placed at a meeting of the task force to review the state of commodity prices and the market, said the prices of all essentials will be 15-20 per cent lower in this Ramadan than the prices last Ramadan considering the price hike.

State of price hike

Ramadan began on 3 April in 2022. An analysis of the price list of the commerce ministry’s Trading Corporation of Bangladesh (TCB) for 3 April last year and Wednesday, 23 March 2023 shows the price of rice, lentils, potato and onions does not vary that much, with the prices of other goods mostly witnessing a significant hike.

Broiler chicken, for example, is a big source of protein for low-income people. The price of broiler chicken, according to TCB, increased by 51 per cent to Tk 250-270 a kg this Ramadan, from the price of last Ramadan. Traders were selling broiler chicken at Tk 250-280 a kg at capital’s Karwan Bazar, Malibagh and Segunbagicha kitchen markets.

There is no respite for egg prices either, with price of four eggs (hali) increasing by more than 37 per cent to Tk 45 to 47, compared to last Ramadan.

Fish prices also saw a big hike. Usually, the price of farmed koi, pangash and tilapia remains stable. Yet their prices rose significantly over the past year. This time, the price of small pangash increased to Tk 160-180 a kg from Tk 120-130 a kg. Visiting Malibagh and Segunbagicha kitchen markets, traders were seen selling a kg-size or bigger pangas fish at Tk 160-180 a kg while medium-sized tilapia at Tk 200 a kg.

The minimum price of loose wheat flour (atta) increased to Tk 55 a kg this time from Tk 34 a kg in last Ramadan while price of packaged wheat flour rose to Tk 65-68 a kg from Tk 40-45 in last Ramadan.

Reason for price hike

Supply of sugar, wheat, lentils and chickpea depends on import and these goods see price hike in global markets. The rising dollar price also increases import costs as the price of the US dollar rose to more than Tk 105 a dollar from Tk 86 a dollar ahead of the last Ramadan. Traders claimed the price of livestock, chickens and fish feed saw a significant rise due to dollar price and that increased production costs.

People concerned said a lack of management is the reason for additional price hike on top of rising global prices. Import tariff on sugar, for example, was reduced by 5 per cent on February this year, yet prices did not fall in the local market. On the contrary, the TCB said price increased by Tk 5 a kg in past one month.

The Directorate of National Consumer Rights Protection (DNCRP) on a report on 19 March said the production costs of broiler chicken varies on the size of the farm, from Tk 135 to Tk 160. Broiler chicken should be sold at maximum Tk 200 a kg, and its market price is too high.

Md Hanif came to Mailbagh kitchen market to buy chicken. He told Prothom Alo, “The price of commodities is too high and everyone at home realise that special arrangements will not be possible because of high prices.”

A hike in fuel oil price as well as power and gas tariff also contributed to the rise in production cost. The energy ministry has been raising power and gas tariff repeatedly with power tariff seeing a 15 per cent rise in three phases in January and February and gas price witnessing an 82 per cent in January.

Speaking to Prothom Alo, Md Shafiul Ather Taslim, director of essential goods importing company TK Group, said global price is no longer an issue now; price of dollar, transport cost and power and gas tariffs have become the problem.

Letter of credit (LC) is paid at least six months after import; no one knows what the dollar price will be at that time, and this uncertainty is a big problem for import, he added.

People in misery

The government is selling rice and wheat flour for low income people under open market sale (OMS) programme. People are often queue at OMS points with many even returning empty handed after failing to purchase the essentials. The government is providing two kg of rice, a kg of sugar and two litres of soybean oil at subsided price to 10 million families every month through family card. With this package, a kg of date is added for families in Dhaka and a kg of chickpea for families elsewhere in the country on the occasion of Ramadan.

People concerned said it is a good initiative by the government, but this is not adequate since more families are in need of assistance because about 10 million families live under the poverty line and another 10 million families live just above the poverty before the coronavirus pandemic, and these people fall in danger during any crisis. Besides, the re are allegations of discrepancies in the distribution of family cards.

Non-government organization CARE Bangladesh conducted a survey on the impact of rise in prices of goods on the poor in eight districts the northern and haor regions of the country from June 2022 to February 2023. According to the survey, 82.2 per cent of people could not afford to purchase foods.

Speaking to Prothom Alo, Selim Raihan, professor at the economics department, University of Dhaka, said, “At present, low and middle-income people are experiencing huge pressure. Many people that I have met are living in hardship and they neither get any assistance nor do they seek it.”

Since there is lack of monitoring and management, global market cannot be held responsible for this state of local market, he said asking, why are the tools of government not being used to control the market?

Import of broiler chicken, eggs and beef can be allowed temporality. Import of eggs was allowed in the past, triggering the quick fall in egg price, Selim Raihan said.

This report appeared in the print and online editions of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten in English by Hasanul Banna