Rice prices in Dhaka have increased by 28.06 percent over the past year despite adequate reserve and import of the staple, putting extra pressure on the people hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic.
Data of the state-run Trading Corporation of Bangladesh (TCB) from December 22 showed that the price of coarse rice increased by 47.69 percent per kg while that of medium 23.33 percent and the fine variety 17.14 percent compared to the previous year.
Each kg coarse rice price rose to Tk46-50 from Tk30-35 compared to the previous year while that of the medium variety went up to Tk53-58 from Tk40-50 and the fine one increased to Tk58-65 from Tk45-60, the TCB data showed.
Oil prices rise, too
Only a year apart, every litre of oil now costs 22.65 percent more on average in Dhaka’s kitchen markets.
The TCB data revealed that a litre of loose palm oil price increased 35.25 percent and super one 27.63 percent.
The loose soybean oil prices rose by 18.6 percent while the one-litre bottled soybean price increased by 14.29 percent and the five-litre bottled soyabean oil went up by 17.46 percent compared to the last year.
Vegetable prices soar
Meanwhile, potato prices increased by 72.73 percent while lentil (medium grains) rose 21.43 percent and large one went up 17.39 percent compared to last year, the TCB figures showed.
Visiting several kitchen markets of the capital, including Kaptanbazar, Anandobazar, Jatrabari Kachabazar, and Sarulia kitchen market, the UNB correspondent found most of the vegetable being sold at high prices.
“Each kg of tomato now costs Tk100-130, green chili Tk100-140, onion Tk40-70, bean Tk40-65, cucumber Tk40-60, old potato Tk40-50 and new potato Tk55-80,” said Nazrul Islam, a retailer at Sarulia kitchen market.
Hasibul, a shopkeeper of Jatrabari, said the lowest price of a kg of rice is Tk55 in his shop. The fine variety of Najirshail costs Tk62-68 a kg.
“We sell a litre of palm oil at Tk98, soybean at Tk110 and mustard oil at Tk140. Besides, we sell a kg of sugar at Tk62-65 and flour at Tk30-35,” he added.
‘Traders behind price hike’
Lutfor Rahman, a resident of Demra, said the prices of groceries are very high now. Fortunately, he said, the prices of some vegetables, including that of cauliflower, cabbage, brinjal, papaya and radish, came down during winter.
“We’ve to buy daily essentials to survive, no matter how high the prices are,” he said. “We can’t stop buying, all we can do is reduce the amount.”
Rahman said the government appears to have no control over the unscrupulous businesses.
“What can we do? When the prices are hiked, we buy 2kg [goods] instead of 5kg,” he said.
SM Nazer Hossain, vice-president of Consumers Association of Bangladesh (CAB), blamed the businessmen for raising the prices through manipulation.
“The consumers can do nothing when prices are hiked. Traders control everything. They raise and lower the prices at their will,” he said. “There’s enough rice in the market as there has been the new arrival but the unscrupulous businesses increased the prices.”
Nazer said rice prices increased after a meeting between the food ministry and the millers.
“Businesses take advantage if there’s any delay in import. If there’s scarcity, why does the government delay the import of 50,000 metric tonnes of rice?” he said.
‘Rice prices to fall soon’
Md Tahmidul Islam, an additional secretary of Procurement & Supply Wing at Food Ministry, told UNB that they have a total stock of food grains of 751,000MT until Dec 21. Of this, 544,000MT is rice and 207,000MT is wheat.
Earlier, the Food Department’s proposal to award a contract to India-based Rika Global Impex Ltd for supplying 50,000MT of non-Basmati parboiled rice worth US$20.2175 million (Tk171.44 crore) was approved by a government committee.
Now, the consultant’s cost will go up by an additional Tk22.53 crore to Tk44.08 crore from Tk21.55 crore. The price of each ton of rice would be $404.35 while every kg would cost Tk34.28.
“We can supply up to March with our existing rice stock,” Islam said.
The government is importing 50,000MT non-basmati rice from India. Already, the first tranche of the import reached Chattogram port. In the second phase, rice would be brought by road from India.
“We hope rice prices will come down soon,” he said.