Social media posts on the hike in fuel prices announced on Friday night left Sazzad Rahman, a mid-level private job holder, in a state of shock. He could only could murmur, "How can we survive? The prices of all commodities will keep spiralling now."
Given the increase in diesel, kerosene, petrol and octane prices by up to 51%, a worried Sazzad couldn't make an estimate of how expensive the coming days would be.
Sazzad's family may be listed among the middle-income group in the country's statistics book. But the lone breadwinner of the Dhaka-based family now feels he has been losing his balance walking a tightrope amid a series of post-pandemic commodity price hikes.
The domino effects of the record-shattering fuel price hikes took no more than a few hours to engulf Mazedur. "I paid Tk50 extra for a motorbike ride to my office in the morning. I have to purchase some basic commodities on my way back home in the evening. I don't know how much the products will cost," he sadly noted on Saturday afternoon.
Throughout Saturday, reporters of The Business Standard monitored kitchen markets and public transport and traced a trend of rising costs of commodities as well as bus fares, even before the government had fixed new rates on the latter issue.
On the evening of the very day, the Bangladesh Road Transport Authority (BRTA) proposed that the government increase publictransport fares by 15% to cope with the fuel price hikes against a demand for a 30% increase by bus operators.
In a statement, the Ministry of Power, Energy and Mineral Resources expressed its feeling that bus fares may increase by a maximum of Tk0.29 per kilometre and launch fares by Tk0.42.
On the preceding night, the Energy and Mineral Resources Division hiked diesel and kerosene prices by Tk34 per litre to Tk114 and petrol and octane by Tk46 to Tk130 and Tk135, respectively.
After the fuel price hikes, the government is now likely to increase electricity tariffs as part of the country's power plants run on diesel and furnace oil.
As a consequence of the oil price increases, most bus operators, including inter-district bus services, went for an abrupt increase in fares.
Some public transport operators said fuel costs per trip will definitely go high since the new fuel prices became effective from 12 midnight between Friday and Saturday.
Bus driver MdMithun of the Mirpur-Jatrabari bound Khajababa Ltd, told TBS, "Earlier, fuel oil used to cost Tk3,200 per day but now it costs about Tk5,000."
As oil-run transport operators raised fares, CNG-and-battery-run auto-rickshaws as well as paddle-powered rickshaws also charged additionally to make matters worse.
"We are not like rich people having bank savings. When commodity price hikes are evident, we have no alternative but to charge extra fares," said rickshaw puller Rahmatullah.
Citizens concerned fear that rice prices will go up due to an increase in the prices of urea fertiliser and fuel oil necessary for irrigation.
Agricultural economist Jahangir Alam Khan told TBS that rice growers will be sandwiched by the price hikes of the two crucial components.
He warned that the government will need to import more rice than the usual 10-15 lakh tonnes annually if farmers feel discouraged about cultivating paddy in decreasing land areas.
FH Ansary, president of ACI Agribusiness, said there has already been pressure to increase salaries in every sector due to rising inflation, but businesses themselves are under squeeze.
"The pressure will mount further following the increase in fuel oil prices, but we have nothing to do in this situation," he added.
Kamruzzaman Kamal, director (marketing) of the country's prominent home appliance and food manufacturer Pran-RFL Group, said the fuel price hike eventually will multiply production costs.
"Transport cost will increase by approximately 30%. Prices of raw materials, production costs, as also marketing expenses will go up as well. Prices of finished products will definitely rise," he added.
City Group's Executive Director BishwajitSaha said commodity product marketers will face the negative impacts of the fuel price hikes.
"The prices of raw materials have been on a rising trend for the last couple of months. The new fuel prices will increase production and distribution costs. Businesses will have to raise product prices to survive in the market," he added.
Kitchen markets turn on the heat
Citing the excuse of increasing transport costs, vegetable traders have raised their product prices as well.
On Saturday, TBS correspondents saw vegetables being sold at Tk5-Tk10 higher than on the previous day at the city's Karwan Bazar.
A bundle of spinach was sold at Tk20, one kg okra at Tk40, long beans at Tk50, and one piece of gourd at Tk60, vendors said, warning that the prices of rice, onions and potatoes would be increased too.
Karwan Bazar-based trader Mohammad Sabuj said the transport cost of 14 tonnes of potatoes from Bogura to Dhaka has risen to Tk19,000-Tk20,000 from Tk15,000 before the announcement of fuel price hikes.
For his part, rice wholesaler Abu Raihan hinted that the price of rice would go up by Tk2 per kg.
According to him, the truck fare for transporting 10 tonnes of rice from Kushtia andNawabganj to Dhaka increased by Tk4,000 within a day.