Soaring veggie prices sour festive spirit for city residents

As Muslims worldwide embark on the holy month of Ramadan amid the Covid pandemic, soaring vegetable prices in the kitchen markets of Dhaka threaten to sour the festive spirit for the residents of the city.

The prices of aubergine, cucumber, bitter gourd, ladies finger, zucchini, carrot, pointed gourd (patal), arum and green chili have all drastically shot up over the past week in the kitchen markets of the capital, derailing the household budget of many residents who are already hit by the Covid-induced economic slowdown.

While residents blame the government for its failure to rein in the rates in the kitchen markets during the festive season, traders attribute the surge to short supply amid the Covid pandemic and rise in demand during Ramadan.

A reality check by UNB on Tuesday revealed that traders at several city markets were selling aubergine for Tk70-80 a kg, cucumber for Tk80, bitter gourd for Tk70, ladies finger for Tk60-70, green chili for Tk80, zucchini for Tk60, carrot for Tk60, pointed gourd for Tk60-65, arum at Tk50-55 and yardlong bean for Tk60 a kg.

According to the state-run Trading Corporation of Bangladesh (TCB) data, on April 12, the price of each kg of potato increased by 10.53 percent, onion by 4 percent, garlic by 14.29 percent, local dried pepper by 11.11 percent and the imported one by 3.85 percent, ginger by 29.41 percent and a hali egg by 6.90 percent as compared to the last week.

Soaring veggie prices sour festive spirit for city residents

Similarly, a kg of fine rice was sold at Tk60-65, medium rice at Tk52-60 and coarse rice at Tk46-52 in the city's kitchen markets. Besides, flour was sold at Tk30-45 a kg and loose soybean at Tk122-125 a kg on Monday, according to the data.

It may be mentioned here that Bangladesh Industries Minister Nurul Majid Mahmud Humayun said at a webinar on Sunday that the price of sugar was increased by Tk 3 a kg ahead of Ramadan. As per the revised rate, packed and loose sugar now cost Tk68 and Tk 63 a kg, respectively.

Some residents UNB spoke with claimed that the prices of some vegetables -- aubergine, cucumber, bitter gourd, ladies finger and green chillies -- on Tuesday soared by as much as Tk20-30 a kg in just one day. They held the government responsible for the increasing veggie prices.

Ashikur Rahman, a resident of Demra, said, "This morning, I was shocked to see the vegetable prices at our local kitchen market. On Monday, I bought a kg of aubergine and cucumber for Tk50. The same items were being sold for Tk70-80a kg today."

“Why is the government not taking necessary steps to control the vegetable prices amid the Covid-19 pandemic? The government should supply essential commodities in the holy month of Ramadan so that traders can’t increase the prices further,” he suggested.

Saiful Islam Munsi, a trader at Sarulia kitchen market, however, said they themselves were purchasing the vegetables at higher rates from the wholesale markets. “Earlier, we used to sell vegetables at low prices to customers. Today, the situation is different. We have nothing to do and we can't be held responsible for the price rise."

President of Edible Oil Importers' Association, Golam Mowla, attributed the rising price of edible oil to increased rates in the international market. "Sometimes retailers increase the prices too. The commerce ministry can fix the retail prices to control the hike. Actually we need to ensure transparency, accountability and run a memo system in the market to control the prices,” he added.

The Vice President of the Consumer Association of Bangladesh, S M Nazer Hossain, said that the prices of essential items get unstable every year due to lack of monitoring. "There is also a blame game going on between large and small businessmen. A coordinated market monitoring system is the need of the hour."

Citing the recent SANEM survey, the president of the Dhaka Chamber of Commerce & Industry (DCCI) Rizwan Rahman said that the poverty rate went up to 42% due to the pandemic, which was 20.5% a year ago. "In this scenario, if prices of essential commodities increase, people will suffer a lot in the month of Ramadan."

"Releasing essential goods from the port should be done on priority basis to keep prices under control. Law enforcement agencies should also take stern action against the extortionists in the transportation sector. We have adequate laws, but we need to implement them," he added.

Source: United News of Bangladesh