Despite the government's repeated assurance, people in Dhaka continued to buy essential items in large quantities on Friday, fearing worse turn of the coronavirus situation.
Yesterday morning, our correspondent found people on a buying spree at different markets across the city.
At grocery chain Swapno's outlet in Rampura, people first found the basket of local onion empty and they hurriedly grabbed as much as they can when a sales person refilled the drum.
Usually salespersons weighed the items at the super shop outlet, but yesterday many people did not wait for them and filled in bags on their own.
When one rice seller at Karwan Bazar asked the buyer why he was buying much more than he does usually, he said, "I just don't know what is going to happen. Prices are increasing every day. Here is also a risk of getting out of home."
"If anything happens, we cannot starve with our family. So, it is better to be prepared," he added.
Some retailers said people worried over the coronavirus situation have been stocking up food for one to two months. This has created a pressure on the market and sellers are exploiting the situation by increasing commodity prices every day.
Monirul Islam Joni, a seller, said, "For the last few days many customers were buying two to three maunds of rice, while earlier they used to buy 5-10 kilogram of rice for one to two weeks."
"Like other shopkeepers, I'm charging Tk50-100 extra for per sack of rice," acknowledged Monirul.
Although there was no shortage of onion supply, on Friday, one kilogram of onion was sold for Tk70-80, which was Tk50-55 on Thursday.
Similarly, price of large grain lentil increased from Tk65-70 to Tk70-75 and a dozen of egg increased from Tk90-95 to Tk120.
Price of coarse rice jumped from Tk38-40 to Tk40-50 per kg, while Miniket price hiked from Tk50-55 to Tk55-60, and Najirshail from Tk55-60 to Tk60-65.
Shakil Ahmed, a government official who was shopping at Karwan Bazar, said, "Everybody wants to be a little worry-free in a crisis situation. What would happen if a situation arises when I cannot get out of home? That's why I'm preparing for."
When asked why he could not rely on the government's assurance about enough stock of food items, Shakil replied, "You can see that the sellers already increased prices of products in the last two days. Who knows what will happen next?"
In a similar tone, Al Amin, an employee of a private company, said, "I have to ensure the food for my wife and children myself."
Meanwhile, a team of Directorate of National Consumer Rights Protection (DNCRP) has temporarily shut down a shop called Roni Rice Agency which was charging extra.
The DNCRP teams have also slapped fines on a number of shops for charging extra for onions.
DNCRP Deputy Director Manzur Mohammad Shahrier told the Business Standard, "During the last couple of days, we have been advising both the shoppers and sellers to be more aware and not distabilise the market."
"We fine sellers only when we are obliged to do so," he added.
Asked why the situation is not improving much despite the drives conducted by seven DNCRP teams, Manzur said, "Both the sellers and shoppers have some problems."