Consumers, producers, suppliers and businessmen fear a shortage of supply of goods in Chattogram because of the embargo on public transports effective from Thursday as a result of the novel coronavirus pandemic.
Although cargo trucks are exempted from the embargo, labourers are unwilling to work over fear of a possible coronavirus infection. This has caused a crisis in supply. Consequently, various super shops and kitchen markets have a lack of supply of goods compared to the demand.
More than 50 trucks loaded with vegetables, which arrived at dawn on Thursday from different parts of the country, are waiting to offload the goods in Chattogram's largest kitchen market Reazuddin Bazar. Until 2:30 pm on Thursday, this correspondent found that no truck had been unloaded as there were no labourers.
Some truck drivers said they had reached Reazuddin Bazar at dawn on Thursday, but they had not found any labourers to unload the goods. There were no wholesalers there either.
The truck drivers are completely at a loss over what to do about unloading such a huge amount of vegetables.
Vegetable supplier Md Salah Uddin said more than a hundred businessmen of Sitakunda and Mirsarai supply vegetables to Reazuddin Bazar and to various super-shops. Due to the coronavirus outbreak, vegetable supply has dropped since last week. Since Thursday, the supply has been almost zero due to the transportation lockdown. All suppliers are home quarantined. In this condition, the vegetables will rot in the fields.
Md Aminul Haque Babul Sarkar, the general secretary of Sonali Jantrik Matsha Shilpa Somobay Samiti, said about 50 to 60 tonnes of sea and fresh-water fish are supplied to various regions in the country from Chattogram Fisheries Ghat every day. On Thursday, the supply dropped to half. The fishermen are afraid of going fishing due to coronavirus. Moreover, the transport sector labourers also do not want to come out of the home.
At least 40,000 fishing trawlers and almost one crore people are directly or indirectly involved in fishing in the Bay of Bengal and in rivers. If the supply of fish from the sea is hampered, all the people in this industry will face a problem, he added.
Abdul Awal, the proprietor of Awal Fishing, said, "There are 30 warehouses in Mirsarai's Baroihat Wholesale Fish Market. In the past, as much as five tonnes of fish were supplied to various districts and divisional cities every day, but on March 26, only 500 kg of fish arrived in the market. We are not sure what will happen in coming days. Under the circumstances, 30 warehouses are losing a lot of business.
Many businessmen in the city's Chakbazar, Kazir Deuri, Karnafuli kitchen markets said the number of customers has dropped but the supply has collapsed even more. The suppliers said they could not send goods due to the shortage of goods and trucks.
Md Shahed from the Lalkhan Bazar area said he had found a smaller stock of fish and vegetables on Thursday compared to that at other times.
If this is the situation on the first day of the transport ban, I fear I will not get anything after a few days, he added.
Sadek Ali, the senior purchase manager of super-shop The Basket, said, "Our customers reduced by 70 percent on March 26. We have run out of hand sanitisers and other cleanser products. We are also running out of other consumer goods. We are concerned about the situation after the 10-day ban on transportation."
In the last few days, customers have bought at least four times the number of goods compared to regular buying, whereas the supply has not increased accordingly. This has resulted in the shortage, he added.