Although there is sufficient stock and adequate supply of everyday essentials, the country's consumer market has become unstable as panic buying has been rife amid the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Visiting Khatunganj in Chattogram, the country's biggest wholesale market of essential commodities, The Business Standard found that goods were selling at increased prices as consumers were buying more than they currently need.
The district administration has formed monitoring teams to bar the traders from charging extra prices but those are not being effective.
More than 5,000 warehouses and business firms are dealing with consumer goods at Chaktai-Khatunganj and Asadganj in Chattogram where transactions of more than Tk2,500 crore take place every day.
In Khatunganj, prices of various varieties of rice have increased by Tk200 to Tk300 per sack weighing 74 kilograms over the last several days.
The prices of all other essentials including lentil, flour, edible oil, onion, garlic, cinnamon, cardamom, dry chili, and ginger have gone up too.
The price of flour has shot up by Tk10 per kilogram in the retail market, while the price of lentil has risen by Tk10 per kilogram, and that of soybean oil by more than Tk20 per kilogram.
Besides, the price of onion has jumped to Tk60 per kilogram from Tk48 in the last couple of days, while ginger and garlic have witnessed a rise by Tk40 and Tk15 per kilogram respectively.
The dry chili price has spiked by Tk30 a kilogram. The price of cinnamon has jumped by Tk20 per kilogram and that of cardamom has risen by Tk1,400 a kilogram.
Sugar was selling at Tk55 per kilogram one month ago, but now it has been selling at Tk65 to Tk67 per kilogram.
Omar Azam, a rice trader at the Khatunganj wholesale market said, there is sufficient stock of rice. But the price is showing an upward trend due to excessive demand.
A hike in the prices of paddy by Tk200 to Tk300 per maund has also contributed to the increase in prices of rice, he added.
He said, "Among different varieties of rice, the highest demand is for 28 atop (sunned rice), 29 atop and Swarna parboiled rice.
"Last week 28 atop rice of a 74-kilogram sack was selling for Tk3,000 but now it has gone up to Tk3,300.The 29 atop was sold at Tk2,700 per sack which is now selling for Tk3,000 and Swarna rice price has increased to Tk2,000 per sack from Tk1,800."
Mohammad Sahedul Alam of RN Enterprise at Khatunganj said, "Prices of all types of edible oil are slightly under control as the booking rate fell in international market due to the coronavirus.
"The price in the international market has dropped by Tk10 to 15. But a crisis has been created in the country as panic spread though there is actually no crisis here."
Jewel Mohajon, manager of Salam Traders in the same market said, "Usually buyers purchase an increased amount of goods before the Eid. But at present consumers are buying three to four times more than their demand."
"The traders are cashing in on this opportunity and hiking the price gradually," he observed.
The food ministry said, till March 15, the government had a stock of 17.62 lakh tonnes food grains, especially rice and wheat, which is about 1.85 lakh tonnes more than that in the same period last year.
Besides, till March 12, about 51.79 lakh tonnes rice and wheat were imported at government and private initiatives. Of this, 51.74 lakh tonnes are wheat and 4,000 tonnes rice. The whole amount of rice has been imported at private level.
SM Nazer Hossain, vice president of the Consumers Association of Bangladesh said, "Traders raise the prices of goods arbitrarily whenever they see an opportunity. This time too they are increasing prices of essentials despite having adequate stock."
"The administration will have to increase monitoring to check this malpractice," he opined.