Spiraling commodity prices: What will people with limited income do?

Every year we see the prices of daily essentials go up before Ramadan and the Eid and come down afterwards. But this year, the prices of onion, potatoes, eggs, edible oil and spices continued to increase even after the Eid, putting people with limited income under severe pressure.

A Prothom Alo report says, prices of several commodities have increased in the market after the Eid. A visit to the markets in Malibagh, Rampur and Karwan Bazar in the capital Thursday showed that the prices of onion and garlic have increased by Tk 5-10 per kg due to supply crunch. The garlic that was being sold at Tk 120-150 a kg just a week ago now costs Tk 130-170. The price of a dozen eggs has increased by Tk 10 after the Eid.

Meanwhile, the commerce ministry has set a new price for edible oil from a meeting with the traders. As per the decision, the price of bottled soybean oil has been raised by Tk 4 per litre while that of the loose soybean oil has been slashed by Tk 2 per litre. The government has set a new price for palm oil too.

As per the new decision, the price of bottled soybean oil increases to Tk 167 from Tk 163 per litre while the price of a 5-litre bottle will be Tk 818 instead of Tk 800.

Speaking about increasing the prices of edible oil, state minister for commerce Ahasanul Islam said the term for withdrawal of VAT (value added tax) on edible oil had ended.

Why have the prices of other commodities gone up then?

Besides, the consumers had to pay high prices for sugar and other products even though the VAT was reduced for the commodities.

People involved with the market said questions have been raised about spiraling rice prices before the Ramadan. Though we have been told about market manipulation by millers and a section of unscrupulous traders, we did not hear anything about the government taking legal actions against them. Every year the government sets a goal of buying rice and paddy but it always fails to reach the target. As a result, both the farmers and consumers incur loss for this. We hope that won’t be repeated this time.

The crisis in the Middle East is intensifying and the prices of daily essentials in the country have been going up. Iran and Israel have launched attacks on each other. If a war breaks out between the two Middle Eastern countries, this could hit the global supply chain hard. Even the prices of fuel oil could also rise.

The naval route for commodity vessels have already shrunken due to the Russia-Ukraine war and Houthi rebels’ attack on ships of several countries. Countries like Bangladesh who depend on imports much will bear the brunt if the Iran and Israel crisis intensifies.

Where would the people with limited income go if the commodity prices increase more, especially since they already are under severe pressure due to the spiralling trend in the market? The government should take steps to increase supply of rice, flour, oil and other daily essentials so that the people with limited income could afford those. And, alongside the towns this step must be extended in remote areas too.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in the cabinet meeting last week asked all concerned ministries to remain vigilant about the ongoing unrest in the Middle East due to Iran-Israel tension and take necessary steps to tackle any adverse effect in Bangladesh.

We think vigilance should be enhanced more to import essential consumer products alongside the fuel oil.