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Soaring prices of oil, veggies aggravate consumer woes

Ginger and cumin seeds hit an all-time high

FE REPORT | May 19, 2023 00:00:00

Edible oils, vegetables and spices became even more expensive last week, intensifying the sufferings of consumers who are already burdened by the exorbitant prices of essential commodities, according to market insiders.

Loose soybean and palm oil experienced a further surge of Tk 6-8 per litre, while onion, ginger, and cumin seed continued to skyrocket, as reported by kitchen market sources.

The price of onions witnessed a further increase of Tk 10 per kilogram, reaching Tk 75-85 per kilogram, while ginger saw a Tk 20 hike, reaching an all-time high of Tk 320-400 per kilogram.

The price of ginger has risen by 60 per cent in just a month, and it is now more than 195 per cent higher compared to last year, according to the Trading Corporation of Bangladesh (TCB).

The price of green chillies has increased to Tk 180-220, as cumin seeds reached an all-time high of Tk 840-900 per kilogram on Thursday.

Loose soybean was at Tk 186-190 per litre, marking an additional Tk 8 per litre jump compared to the government-set rate of Tk 176 per litre.

Loose palm oil prices have further increased to Tk 155-160 per litre, creating a Tk 20-25 per litre difference compared to the government rate of Tk 135.

Sugar prices remain significantly high in the retail market, selling at Tk 135-145 per kilogram, despite the government-set rate of Tk 120-125 per kilogram.

Balai Das, a grocer in Dhaka's Hazaribagh area, said that the government rates are non-existent. The wholesale price of loose soybean is above Tk 182 per litre, surpassing the government's maximum retail price of Tk 176.

He added that there is a high demand for palm oil, but the supply is insufficient.

Mr Das said, "Distributors are supplying sugar at Tk 130 per kilogram, and we are selling it at Tk 140 per kilogram." "No companies are supplying packet sugar as it specifies the price," he explained.

He called for the authorities to compel companies to supply packaged sugar, as this is the only way to market restore.

Golam Maula, a trader based in Dhaka's Moulovibazar, said that refiners are causing a delay of 40 to 50 days in delivering oil or sugar to distributors and wholesalers, which is the primary reason for the market volatility.

On the kitchen market front, brinjal, pointed gourd, wax gourd, snake gourd, bitter gourd, sponge gourd, and coriander leaf have witnessed a further increase of Tk 5-40 per kilogram or piece. However, teasel gourd and green papaya experienced a slight decline.

Brinjal was being sold at Tk 70-90 per kilogram, pointed gourd at Tk 55-65, bitter gourd at Tk 80-90 per kilogram, and coriander leaf at Tk 450 per kilogram. According to kitchen market vendors, papaya was being sold at Tk 60 per kilogram.

SM Nazer Hossain, vice president of the Consumers Association of Bangladesh (CAB), said that the commerce minister had announced on May 11 that relevant state agencies would monitor the market to ensure consumers could purchase sugar at the government-fixed rates. However, no such activities have been observed so far.

He pointed out that sugar and edible oil are being sold at much higher rates than the fixed prices, with no action being taken against any refiners.

In its report, the Trade and Tariff Commission (BTTC) mentioned irregularities by the refiners and other market manipulations, but no action has been taken yet, according to Hossain.

He suggested that the commerce ministry should take immediate action based on the report to establish checks and balances in the market.

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