The pressure of increasing prices of essentials, including rice, onion, edible oil and vegetables, has made the life of the fixed-income group and the poor further miserable as the lingering coronavirus pandemic has either eaten up portions of their income or rendered many of them jobless.
Many people have cut their daily menu reducing consumptions to cope with the situation as potato is selling at almost double the rate of Tk30 a kilogram, fixed by the government, and rice price continues to go up despite government measures.
Most common vegetables have gone beyond the purchasing capacity of the general people, pushing them into a situation where they are struggling to make both ends meet amid the COVID-19 crisis, many said.
Market experts said that the government should keep the commodity market tolerable and stable to avert any adverse consequences as the COVID-19 pandemic made a huge number of the country’s people new poor.
They also blamed powerful business quarters with political affiliation for making the essential commodity market volatile.
‘We, the common people, are the worst-sufferers due to the unusual price rises as we have already lost a portion of our income due to the pandemic,’ Md Ashikur Rahman, a private service holder, told New Age on Thursday.
At the same time, he added, the lack of government initiatives has encouraged dishonest business people to go for excessive profits.
Ashikur has been forced to reduce his family’s diet chart as the price of rice has continued to rise for the last four months and the prices of vegetables have skyrocketed over the last few months.
‘It became too difficult to bear the daily expenses as most of the vegetables are selling for above Tk 100 a kg and potato price has exceeded Tk 50. We have been forced to cut the consumption of vegetables,’ he said.
The Department of Agricultural Marketing under the agriculture ministry on October 7 fixed the maximum retail price of potato, at Tk 30 a kg, to check the soaring price of the essential item but the price still remained as high as Tk55 a kg.
‘Traders are making at least Tk 20 profit from a kg of potato and it is totally unethical,’ Agriculture minister Mohammad Abdur Razzaque told reporters on Thursday at his ministry in the city.
The price of rice has continued to rise on the market since June just after boro paddy was harvested and there was a bumper output of the main cereal crop.
The price of rice went up further by Tk 1-2 a kg in last week though the food ministry at a meeting with the rice mill owners on September 23 set the price of miniket rice at Tk 51.50 a kg and the price of medium-quality rice at Tk 45 a kg.
The price of course-variety rice increased by Tk 1-2 a kg in the last week and it sold for Tk 48-50 a kg on Monday.
The standard variety of BR-28 rice sold for Tk 52-54 a kg in the capital.
The standard variety of Miniket rice sold for Tk 56-58 while the fine variety for Tk 60-65 a kg on the day.
The fine variety of Najirshail rice retailed at Tk 62-65 a kg.
Onion was still selling for Tk 100 a kg while the green chilli prices remained Tk 260-280 a kg at the city markets.
Agricultural economist Abdul Bayes said that the prices of some commodities increased abnormally and some were seasonal increases but it was true that there were many faults in the country’s marketing system.
He said that the government should ensure stability on the market to avert any adverse situation as people lost their jobs and income due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Abdul Bayes said that the state of the commodity market was similar to that of the ‘rule of law’ in the country.
A powerful quarter with political affiliation is involved in market manipulation and the government should take stern actions against them as a stable commodity market was a precondition for development, he observed.
‘After the unusual rise in the prices of vegetables, potato was the better option for us. But this item too became so costly and now we are passing our days in utter hardship with little consumption,’ Abu Huraira, a rickshawpuller in the capital, said.
‘I came from Gaibandha. My income has increased a little but it is still much lower than that I used to earn before the coronavirus outbreak. I am passing my days in a grave situation due to the high food prices,’ Abu Huraira despaired.
Agriculture minister Abdur Razzaque on Thursday said that the government was working to bring down the prices of food commodities adding that it would be very difficult.
He said that some traders were making excessive profit from potato which was unethical and the law enforcement agencies were trying to control the situation.
The minister said that the prices of vegetables increased as the floods damaged farmlands and the prices would come down within 20-25 days when new items would arrive in the market.
Abdur Razzaque, however, said that the output of aman paddy might be lower this year and it might be necessary to import 5-6 lakh tonnes of rice before the next boro season.
‘The prime minister has approved the proposal for rice import in principle and we will observe the situation for 15-20 more days,’ he added.
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