In 2021, prices of foods consisting of daily intake was Tk 124 for a day labourer, Tk 68 for a moderately active person, a little over Tk 58 for a less active person and Tk 33-121 from children based on their age.

Taking everything into consideration, a family of five spent on an average Tk 400 a day in 2021 with their daily food intake being made up of rice, flour, lentil, edible oil, vegetable, fish, cheap fruits, egg and milk. That chart included food items are cheap and available in Bangladesh.

About the recent surge in the price of food, Nazma Shaheen, chairman of the Institute of Nutrition and Food Science, said poor people consume less food when food prices go up and if their income does not rise. They live hand to mouth eating just rice, lentils and vegetables because nutritious food is mostly pricier, she added.

Less fish and meat

Nowadays, people with limited income try to adjust their additional expense by reducing the amount of fish, meat and eggs from their daily food intake. Sale of fish and meat has dropped where lower income people live.

There is small market beside main road in Begunbari of the capital’s Tejgaon. Vendor Md Mamun sells beef on a van but he was seen sitting idle on it. At that time, a certain Shahidul Islam, who sells clothes in Tejgaon, asked the meat price but did not buy it after hearing the cost.

When asked about the sale of meat, Mamun expressed annoyance while driving away the flies and said, “I have reduced meat price from Tk 700 to Tk 680 a kg, yet no meat is being sold.”

Mamun said he could sell on an average 100 kg of meat a day two months ago. Usually Friday sees more sales, yet he could not sell even 50 kg of meat last Friday.

Vegetable vendor Anu Mia was sitting near his van carrying various types of lentils, ginger, garlic and onions. There were three customers seen buying 100-200 grams of lentils or 500 grams to 1 kg of potatoes.

When asked both the seller and the customers reacted strongly.

Garment worker Asma Khatun said, “Previously, I could buy anything I want. Nowadays I purchase whatever I can in Tk 100-150. I have stopped cooking anything other than rice, lentils and vegetables.” It has been difficult to live with a family in this city, an angry Asma added.

People with fixed income suffer the worst because of rise in prices of essentials. They cannot spend more even if they want to.

A similar scenario was seen after visiting threes markets from the capital’s Kazipara to Mirpur section 11 and Nakhalpara. Shops had less customers and shops selling fish and meat had even less. Customers who previously purchased kilograms of vegetables, edible oil, lentils and onion are now buy those no more than 250-500 grams. Traders also said now they have to bargain more with customers.

People in the low-income bracket said their expenses have increased by Tk 1,000-2,000 a month – 15 to 20 per cent of their total income. Under the circumstances, most of the customers are buying less fish, meat, edible oil, milk, egg, vegetables and and such nutritious foods.

How much have prices gone up?

The rise in prices of daily commodities in the market has started at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic. However, in recent times the price of everything is increasing exponentially. This is due to the disruptions in the global supply, price hike and a rise in the value of the dollar.

Analysing the market price list of TCB on 7 January, 2019 and Friday, it was seen that then the price of coarse rice was Tk 40 per kg. But, now the minimum is Tk 45; the minimum price of anchor lentils was Tk 35, which is now Tk 55. Price of per kg flour was Tk 27, which is now being sold at Tk 46. The price of soybean oil was Tk 100 per litre. But the price of soybean oil has increased to Tk 198 now. Only the price of potatoes is slightly lower than then.

There are fears of further rise in the prices of daily commodities in the coming days as the global supply of wheat has almost stopped due to the war between Russia and Ukraine. India, too, has imposed a ban on wheat export.

According to the daily food report of the food ministry on 19 May, the stock of rice in the government warehouses is still a bit more than 1 million tonnes. However, wheat stocks are declining rapidly. The government warehouses now have nearly 100,000 tonnes of wheat. The price of wheat also started rising rapidly in the domestic market after India imposed a ban on wheat export. In the last month, the price of wheat has gone up by Tk 5 per kg. The price of rice has increased even during the peak season.

Speaking to Prothom Alo, Mosammat Nazmanara Khanum, secretary of the food ministry, said, “We have ensured the import of wheat from abroad to ensure low cost food for the poor in the country. Another 300,000 tonnes of wheat is expected to reach the country within this month.”

She further said, “We are still in discussion with India regarding wheat import. We are also trying to purchase wheat from alternative sources. The coverage of social safety net programmes is also being increased.”

‘Urgent actions needed’

People with low income spend half of their income on food. Therefore the price hike affects them the most.

Professor Nazma Shaheen said, “The government should take immediate actions regarding reducing the prices of nutritional foods in the market. They need to make arrangements for supplying essential food items to the common people at low prices through government agencies. Otherwise, a large number of working people in the country will be affected by various diseases due to malnutrition. This will affect the country in the long run.

* This report has been rewritten in English by Hasanul Banna and Ashish Basu

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