During the ongoing lockdown put in force in the wake of the second wave of Covid-19, earnings of low-income people – day labourers, rickshawpullers, hawkers, etc – have decreased by 65.71% and 37.14 of them have borrowed money to meet their daily needs, including food, according to a survey.
Dr Nazneen Ahmed, senior research fellow at the Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies, presented the results of the survey entitled "Price Hike of Essentials & the Impact on Food Intake" in a webinar organised by Right to Food Bangladesh on Thursday.
According to the report, the second wave of Covid-19 has reduced the income of many low-income people. On top of this, an increase in prices of essential commodities such as rice, flour, oil, vegetables, etc have put unbearable pressure on them.
Nazneen Ahmed said, "Government assistance is needed to ensure food security for these low-income people. Although there is no syndicate in the rice market at present, the market is in turmoil. The amount of rice the government-sanctioned large rice millers can stock plays a role in destabilising the rice market, which could be even direr in the future."
Explaining the instability in the commodity market, Commerce Minister Tipu Munshi said, "We are going through an unusual time and to deal with this situation, the Trading Corporation of Bangladesh (TCB) is selling food items in the open market."
"Prices of oil, sugar and rice are higher in the international markets too, which has affected local markets. The food, agriculture and commerce ministries are working to reduce prices of essential commodities. We are monitoring, but we do not have enough manpower," the minister added.
Professor Dr Saima Haque Bidisha of the Department of Economics, Dhaka University, said that the government is concerned about controlling commodity prices but there are no long-term activities. Thus a commission needs to be formed to control commodity prices. This commission will make recommendations in the light of research and will play a role in market monitoring.
Meanwhile, some recommendations have been made in the survey to address the current situation including ensuring food security as a right of all citizens, increasing the sale of rice in open markets, setting up shops in a few permanent open markets in the area for the next one year and increasing the sales capacity of the TCB.
Measures should be taken to monitor the stock of local grocery shops regularly. Besides, it was also suggested that rich people do not panic buy and stock products.