- Tk500 crore worth of spices in stock now
- Traders worry over whether sales will rise before Eid
- Most dried spices in a state of decline
- Traders may lose Tk100-150 crore if sales do not rise
With less than two weeks left for Eid-ul-Adha, the second biggest religious festival of Muslims, sales of spices at the Khatunganj wholesale market in Chattogram have been largely stagnant due to the ongoing nationwide lockdown.
The market has at least Tk500 crore worth of spices in stock ahead of Eid-ul-Adha. Insiders say around 70% of the imported spices are traded here.
According to spice traders at the market, they have increased the supply of all local and foreign spices in view of the upcoming Eid. They hope that as in other years, there will be a good spice business centring on the Eid again.
But the lockdown has dashed their hopes. The prices of many products have come down. Businessmen are worried whether sales will increase even in the next few days before Eid.
Traders of raw spices – onions, garlic and ginger – at Khatunganj said that the wholesale price of ginger has come down by at least Tk40-70 in the last one week.
Although sales are scarce, ginger price has fallen abnormally due to an increased supply around Eid. However, prices of onions and garlic have gone up during this period.
Chinese ginger was sold at a wholesale price of Tk120-130 in Khatunganj on Tuesday, down from Tk190-200 a week ago. Similarly, last week the price of the Indian variety of ginger was Tk130-140 per kg. But currently it is selling for Tk90-95.
At present, the Indian variety of onions is selling for Tk30-40 per kg, the Myanmar variety for Tk25-34 and local ones at Tk42-45.
Last week, the Indian variety of onions was sold at Tk28-38, the Myanmar variety at Tk20-30 and local ones at Tk40-42.
Similarly, the Chinese variety of garlic is selling for Tk100-110 per kg and the local variety for Tk45-60, with an increase of Tk5 per kg. Last week, the Chinese variety of garlic was sold at Tk100-105 and the local variety went for Tk40-55.
"The sales that were supposed to be ahead of Eid-ul-Adha are not happening. Buyers from different districts and upazilas are not coming to the market. As a result, the prices of the products that have been supplied are going down," said Khatunganj Hamid Ullah Market Traders' Welfare Association General Secretary Mohammad Idris.
"In the last two weeks, the price of ginger as a raw and perishable product has come down to Tk70 per kg. It is very unusual. If this continues, there is a risk of big losses for traders this time."
With fewer sales than supply, most of the dried spice products, except for chilli, cinnamon and bay leaves, are in a state of decline. The prices of some products remain unchanged.
For more than a week now, the price of spice products such as chilli, turmeric, coriander, cardamom, clove and nutmeg has been declining in Khatunganj.
Among these products, the Indian variety of chilli is being sold at Tk170 per kg, with the local variety going for Tk95 per kg.
Local turmeric is being sold at Tk90 per kg and Indian turmeric at Tk105 after going down by Tk10-15 per kg.
At the same time, the price of coriander has come down by Tk10 per kg and is now selling for Tk 90.
Among the imported dry spice products, the price of cloves has declined the most. Cloves are now being sold at Tk940 per kg, after coming down by Tk140 in the last one week.
At the same time, nutmeg price has dropped by up to Tk80 per kg and is currently selling for Tk600-620.
Although stable for a long time, the price of cardamom has come down by Tk50 in one week. At present, per kg cardamom, imported from Guatemala, is being sold at Tk1,980-2,000.
But for a long time now, Indian cumin is being sold at Tk265-270 per kg and mace at Tk2,300-2,350 per kg.
Prices of chilli, cinnamon and bay leaves have gone up slightly over the past week. At present, per kg black pepper is being sold at Tk510, cinnamon at Tk315 per kg and bay leaves at Tk70 per kg.
According to the Chattogram port authorities, about 50,000 tonnes of spices are imported every year for Eid-ul-Adha. Their import value is Tk600-700 crore. Among the spice products, all but coriander have to be imported from abroad.
Mohammad Nazim Uddin, a spice trader at Khatunganj and proprietor of Messrs Nazim & Brothers, said businessmen in the sector import more spices at this time of year than at other times. As a result, the sales of spice products start two to three weeks before Eid in normal times.
But this time the market picture is completely opposite to what it is in normal times due to the nationwide lockdown. It is safe to say that wholesalers and small traders of districts and upazilas have not been coming to the market to buy spices since the last one week to ten days. As a result, the prices of most spice products in the market are down or stable.
Asim Saha, a spice importer at Khatunganj, said that as they do every year, businessmen have increased the import of spices ahead of Eid.
But there are no buyers in the market in line with the import volume. As a result, spices have been piling up in the warehouses of importers and wholesalers. This time there is a risk of huge losses for spice importers.
Amar Kanti Das, senior vice-president of the Bangladesh wholesale hot spice traders association, expressed his fear that the traders may lose at least Tk100-150 crore if the current downturn in sales caused by the lockdown continues.
Explaining the reason, he said some spices, such as onion, garlic, and ginger, need to be sold within a specific period after they are imported as they are perishable.
These, if stored for a long time, rot and additional storage rent has to be paid as well, he said. "Similarly, dry spices can be stored for a while but extra storage rent has to be paid for longer preservation."
Besides, due to excess supply, importers are forced to sell products at prices lower than the purchase prices, he further said.
This is because they have the pressure to collect cash by selling goods and repay bank loans, he added.