Consumers can hope to breathe easy this Ramadan as prices of most essential items for the upcoming season are lower at Chattogram's Khatunganj wholesale market this year, thanks to sufficient import.
Besides, prices of the products have dipped in the global market too.
Traders of the country's largest wholesale market said food items such as chickpea, lentil, sugar, onion, date and edible oil are imported and ready at Khatunganj. The market alone meets around 40-50 percent of the country's total annual demand for these items, according to importers.
Importer Solaiman Badsha, proprietor of Tayiaba Traders and former president of Khatunganj Traders' Association, said twice the amount of chickpeas have been imported this year than the market demand.
"Lentil, edible oil and other essentials have also been imported in sufficient amounts. So, there is no possibility of price hike in Ramadan markets this year," said Abul Bashar Chowdhury, head of commodity importer BSM Group.
In the market, every maund of chickpea is selling for Tk2,000-2,200 – Tk500-700 less than the price during the corresponding period last year.
Besides, prices of palm oil and soybean oil are lower by Tk100-200 per maund while prices of date are also lower by at least Tk200 per 10kg packet depending on quality.
Onion, an essential item, from Myanmar is selling for Tk65-70 per kg and Chinese ginger price is Tk80-85 per kg.
Meanwhile, a major quantity of chickpeas has been imported from Australia and some from Canada, Tunisia and Myanmar. Dates have been imported mostly from Egypt and United Arab Emirates.
According to the commerce ministry, the country requires around two lakh tonnes of chickpea every year while the demand for the item in Ramadan only is 80 thousand -1 lakh tonnes.
The annual demand for onion is 22 lakh tonnes, for date it is 20 thousand tonnes, for sugar it is 14-16 lakh tonnes and for edible oil it is 18-20 lakh tonnes, according to the ministry.
From December last year to February this year, one lakh tonnes of chickpea, 70 thousand-80 thousand tonnes of lentil and around 10 thousand tonnes of date were imported, according to Khatunganj importers.
Sanjoy Deb, leader of Chattogram Dal Mill Traders' Association, said the current prices of masoor and motor dal are lower than those of last year.
On the other hand, prices of sugar and edible oil are the same as the last year's, according to Shahed Ul Alam, owner of RM Enterprise.
An adequate amount of both the items has been imported this year, he said.
Traders said prices of onion and ginger will remain stable this Ramadan.
"Now, we are selling mostly Burmese onion. Price of the item will come down to half the current rate when Indian onion hits the market," said Mohammad Idris, general secretary of Khatunganj Hamidullah Market Traders' Association.
Syed Sagir Ahmed, general secretary of Khatunganj Trade Association, said, "The import and stock of Ramadan's essential food items are adequate. The prices of the commodities will remain stable if no market manipulation occurs this year."
SM Nazer Hossain, vice president of Consumers' Association of Bangladesh, said prices of food commodities should be cheaper in line with the global market.
"In Ramadan, despite stability in the wholesale market, prices of the essentials soar due to market manipulation and rumours," he said.
He stressed monitoring the retail market during the holy month to contain price spiral of commodities.
However, most traders at Khatunganj market said they were not happy as sales are lower this year than last year.