The ramifications of the coronavirus are being felt in the rice market of Chattogram. Rice price has been hiked several times, especially the price of boiled rice preferred by lower and middle-income groups.
In the last five months, the price of such rice has doubled. Even the price of a rice sack has increased by Tk500 to Tk600 due to the lockdown.
The price of rice is increasing in this coronavirus situation for many reasons, including supply shortage in relation to demand, excessive transportation cost and hoarding at consumer level, among others.
A sack of atap rice, currently being sold at Tk1,950, was Tk1,600 last month and Tk1,300 around three months ago.
The price has increased by Tk650 in the span of a month.
Another atap rice variety and miniket rice are being sold at Tk2,200. The price was Tk1,400 three months ago.
Zafar Alam, vice president of Pahartali Bazar Banik Samity, said, "In the wholesale market, atap and boiled rice sack of 50 kg is being sold at Tk1,950, beti atap at Tk2,200, miniket at Tk2,200, jirashail at Tk2,650, among others."
Relevant sources noted that with the holy month of Ramadan ahead, there is a likelihood of traders maintaining the disturbing trend of increasing the prices of necessities in this season.
In these moments of crisis, consumers are worried about the potential price hike of rice in Ramadan.
They have urged that there be market monitoring and mobile court drives to control the price hike of rice during Ramadan.
Sources at Pahartali Banik Samity said that rice in Chattogram comes from Naogaon, Dinajpur and Ashuganj.
There are 350 rice storages in Pahartali which supply rice throughout the district and upazilas of Chattogram for retail sale.
"We have to spend Tk2,500 for transporting rice to Chattogram from the northern part of the country. And it was Tk1,500 earlier. We cannot manage transportation to some points even with a higher fare," said Omar Azam, general secretary of Chattoram Rice Traders Association.
Meanwhile, the price of rice sacks has increased by as much as Tk800 to Tk1,000.
Since people are purchasing more rice than they need and there is no supply from the northern parts, the stock of rice has been showing a downward trend.
Retailers are of the view that the price of rice may go up if the lockdown is extended.
Monik Chandra Das, a retail seller in Mirsharai, said that people have been buying more rice than usual in the last one month.
"Many of them are purchasing three to four sacks of rice. Besides, some of them are buying it for distribution among the poor. Though there is demand, we do not have supply owing to a transportation shortage. So, rice price is on the rise," he added.
Poor and middle-class people are in trouble because of the rice price hike. Most of the poor are having trouble in rice purchase as they are currently unemployed.
S M Nazer Hossain, vice president of Consumers Association of Bangladesh, said that the government has already announced that there are sufficient stocks of rice in the country.
"The rice traders are regularly increasing the rice price. This heinous trend of the traders is illegal and inhumane. Mobile court drives should be strengthened to control the rice market," he said.