Sales at superstores surged by 30 percent while grocery shop sales doubled just in a week amid coronavirus outbreak.
Grocers and officials of super shops said panicked buyers have been rushing to stock up grocery items. The rush has put the supply in a sudden squeeze, hiking prices of rice, lentil, flour, egg, soybean oil, onion, garlic, meat and fish, soap and liquid hand wash.
Rice is on top of the list of such panic buying – its prices having edged up by Tk2-5 per kilogram depending on quality.
On Thursday, coarse rice sold at Tk38-42, medium quality rice at Tk52-55 and premium quality rice at Tk56-64 per kilogram.
The price of egg soared to Tk108 from Tk95 per dozen, while onion's price hiked to Tk55 from Tk45-50 per kg. Flour price rose by Tk2-4 per kilogram, while beef saw a jump of Tk40-50 to Tk570-580 per kilogram.
Millers have hiked the price of rice by Tk50-100 per sack almost overnight, said Karwan Bazar wholesaler Shafiq.
Food Minister Sadhan Chandra Majumder on Wednesday said the reserve of rice and wheat was more than sufficient to meet the present demand. He warned of stern action against overpricing.
Abdur Razzak, a grocer in Dhaka's Rampura area, said he used to sell items worth Tk12,000-15,000 a day. Now his sales have jumped to Tk25,000 a day in the last couple of days.
"People who used to buy 4-5kg rice a week have been buying 50-100kg now. They are purchasing 5-10kg onion although they would buy highest 2kg previously. As a result, the stock is running out quickly," he said.
A number of grocers at different parts of the capital echoed Razzak. Super shops were also facing the rush of customers.
"We have been wrestling with the pressure for the last couple of days," a number of salespersons at different superstores said.
The ACI Limited's retail chain Shwapno said their sales of grocery items rose by 25 to 30 percent in the last week.
Executive Director of ACI Logistics Ltd (Shwapno) Sabbir Hasan Nasir said, "We are continuously refilling the shelves as stocks are running out quickly."
The scenario at Meena Bazar, a concern of the Gemcon Group, was also the same. Its CEO Shaheen Khan said they were also experiencing heightened demand for grocery items.
"We did not increase the prices as the demand-supply gap is temporary. However, many grocers are exploiting the situation by hiking prices," he added.
DNCRP conducts anti-overpricing drives
The Directorate of National Consumer Rights Protection (DNCRP) on Thursday conducted drives against sellers for overcharging customers.
DNCRP teams fined a number of rice sellers for overpricing.
The teams warned customers and traders against overpricing and hoarding through loudhailer in the morning.
A shop in the Gulshan DCC Market was shut down temporarily as it overcharged Tk500 for a dairy product.
Seven DNCRP teams are monitoring the wholesale and retail markets in the capital. The teams conducted drives at 12 kitchen markets on Thursday, said Manjur Mohammad Shahriar, deputy director (Dhaka division) of the DNCRP.