The prices of many food items and household essentials have gone up 10 to 20 percent, in the capital, due to panic-buying by consumers amid the coronavirus fear.
Sellers at Karwan Bazar, one of the biggest hubs for those products, said they have never seen such a jump in sale in recent years.
"My sales tripled in a day. People have gone crazy, each of them buying Tk8,000-Tk10,000's-worth of food and other essentials," said Mominullah, who has run a shop at the Karwan Bazar retail kitchen market for over three decades.
He sold 25 sacks of rice yesterday – an unbelievable amount to him. This sudden surge in demand has pushed up the prices of all items.
The price of coarse rice has increased by Tk5 a kilogramme to Tk40 a kilogramme yesterday. A sack of 25 kg minicate and nazirsail (fine quality) rice increased by Tk100 throughout the course of a day.
Some people buy their food items and household things for a month or fortnight from Karwan Bazar, which often offers competitive prices that are less than the maximum retail price, or MRP, written on a packet.
However, this is not the case now. A pack of lifebuoy refill hand wash (170ml) is being sold at Tk60 (MRP) instead of Tk55 a few days ago because of a hike in demand. It is the same for other items, be it packets of rice or flour, home cleaning products, or spices.
Correspondents of The Business Standard visited the Mohammadpur and Hatirpool kitchen markets as well as small retail shops in lanes, and saw that prices of almost all items – including vegetables – have increased significantly in the last few days.
Anisur Rahman, a resident of East Razabazar, was seen buying: six packets of washing powder, 10 soaps, four kilogrammes of lentil, five litres of edible oil, Tk1,100's-worth of spices, and many more items.
"I am buying so that I can go at least for a month," said Rahman, guardian of a four-member family.
Parvez Hossain, a resident of Dilu Road – which is less than a kilometer away from Karwan Bazar – said he bought household essentials and food as a precaution so that his family does not face trouble in case coronavirus spreads in Bangladesh like in many other parts of the world.
"Usually, I do not buy more than five kilogrammes of rice at a time, but this time I bought 25 kg," Hossain told The Business Standard. Like Rahman, yesterday he bought all the items he requires for his family.
Department stores at the Town Hall market in Mohammadpur are of the same opinion. They said their sales have gone up by 1.5-2 times over the last two weeks.
Monirul Islam Milon, owner of Milon Traders, said his daily sales were not more than Tk15,000 even a few days ago. "But sales have now risen to Tk25,000-30,000 per day."
People are mostly buying cleansing products like hand washes, soaps, floor cleaners, and regular and toilet tissues, he added.
Md Imran, proprietor of another department store, said his sales have almost doubled over the past few days.
"I have some regular customers who usually buy 3-4kg rice on average, but now they are purchasing 10kg of rice at once," he said.
The prices of cucumber, green papaya, pumpkin, brinjal, gourd etc. all have increased in the last two days, according to sellers. Prices of spices have also gone up as people stockpile for a month or more.
The price of lemon has skyrocketed in recent days as four small pieces are being sold at Tk 30 at Karwan Bazar. The price is at least Tk40 in small retail shops in lanes and bylanes.
The situation is different in super shops, such as Meenabazar and Agora, where there was no big rush for panic buying except for hand wash, sanitiser and toilet cleaner.
Ghulam Rahman, president of Consumers Association of Bangladesh, is also aware of the price rise of commodities due to panic buying.
"We monitor specific markets on a weekly basis and we have found that prices of essentials are increasing because of excess demand from consumers," Rahman told The Business Standard yesterday.
He assumed this trend will not last long.
Shah Abid Hossain, joint commissioner (crime) of Dhaka Metropolitan Police, said they are monitoring the market prices closely.
"Our teams are working every day and if we find a seller charging extra, we will take action," Hossain told The Business Standard.
He also asked consumers not to panic.
The Business Standard also tried to talk to the directorate of consumers' rights protection, but nobody was available for comment.