Flour prices marked a sharp rise in the city markets in the last few days while prices of other key essentials also maintained upward trends.
Traders, however, attributed such sudden price rise of flour to a supply scarcity of the staple.
When visiting different city markets on Friday, this correspondent found that prices of flours, made from wheat, climbing to an all-time high of Tk 80-82 a kg in the capital. The impact of the latest wheat cost hike was also obvious in prices of bakery food items.
Wheat-made bakery foods witnessed a further hike in the last seven days battering the consumers who had already dug deep into their pockets to cope with the rising cost of living triggered by a tough inflationary pressure, market insiders said.
Besides flour, other essentials including lentil and edible oil prices also showed a further increase in the seven day period.
However, sugar and salt prices remained unchanged at their previous highs. Sugar was sold at Tk 115-120 per kg and iodised salt at Tk 38-42 a kg on Friday.
Some traders also observed that despite wheat prices remained static in the international market, especially on both sides of the Atlantic, in the last few months after Ukraine started exporting the commodity through its Black Sea ports, the essential food grain got costlier in the local market last week.
"Though global prices of wheat, especially on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean remained static for the last few months at US $320-$350 per tonne (excluding freight and other charges), scarcity of the US dollar has made it difficult for local importers to bring wheat from abroad," an importer said.
On the day, packed maida (finer flour) was retailed at Tk 78-82 a kg, loose maida Tk 74-75 a kg, packed atta (coarse flour) at Tk 66-70 and loose one at Tk 62-64 a kg in the city.
The price witnessed a 5.0-7.0 per cent hike in one week, 10-12 per cent in a month and 61-80 per cent in a year, according to the Trading Corporation of Bangladesh (TCB).
A breakfast bread of different brands, weighing 400-gramme, increased to Tk 50 a packet last week which was Tk 42-45 in the previous week and Tk 40 one month ago.
The global hike in wheat prices recently as well as a low import of the grain in the country has compelled the flour mills and automated and manual bakeries to hike prices of the key food item.
Azizur Rahman, owner of a retail shop at West Dhanmondi, said souring prices of loose flour has made it tough for them to procure the item currently.
"I didn't get loose flour despite making an order for the same with a nearby dealer at Town Hall at Mohammadpur one month ago," he said.
The grocer informed that supply of packed maida and atta of different brands has also been squeezed by the manufacturers amid a dwindling demand which resulted in a reduction in profit margin for them.
"By investing Tk 44-46 in each kilogram, we could make Tk 6.0-8.0 profit from one kg item a year ago but at present, despite investing Tk 77 on the same amount of the commodity, we are able to make only Tk 3.0 profit," he stated.
He said all the importers could bring a total of 0.42 million tonnes of wheat in the current financial year when it was above 1.2 million tonnes in the corresponding period of the FY '22.
Consumers Association of Bangladesh secretary Humayun Kabir Bhuiyan said the government should immediately work on increasing import of essential food grains.
Importers of food grain and other essential items should be given priority in this regard, he said, adding market monitoring should also be increased to ensure smooth supply and distribution of the of the food items already existing in the country.
The government has a stock of only 0.21-million tonnes of wheat out of a total of 1.58 million tonnes of food stock, said the food ministry.
Local wheat output remained almost static at 1.0-1.1m tonnes in the past five years, according to the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS).
The country has a demand of 6.5-7.0 million tonnes of wheat, of which 95 per cent is imported from India, Europe and North America.
Meanwhile, lentil price increased to Tk 10 a kg, as medium lentil price hit Tk 125-130 a kg while finer one Tk 140-145 a kg on the day.
Soybean oil prices also increased by Tk 5.0 per litre as loose soybean oil was sold at Tk 174-176 a litre while bottled one at Tk 180-185 a litre on Friday. Loose super palm oil was retailed at Tk 150-155 a litre on the day marking a Tk 10-12 a litre hike in the past 7 days.
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