The distance between Belal Store in the Gohira area of Raozan upazila in Chattogram and Khatunganj wholesale market in the port city is around 40 kilometres. A 50-kilogramme sack of rice is being sold in the shop for TK2,200-Tk2,300 whereas it is sold for TK2,100 in Khatunganj wholesale market. If the price of onions or lentils increases by Tk15-Tk20 in Khatunganj, it is increased in the shop by Tk30-Tk40. In fact the price of essentials is increasing both at the wholesale and the retail levels in the district.
Lack of transportation facilities, a decrease in the number of workers for loading and unloading goods, reduced banking hours and a stop to the travel of small traders to the region from other parts of the country due to the ongoing lockdown are responsible for the price hike, think the businessmen of the region.
Earlier, the per day turnover in the Chaktai-Khatunganj wholesale market was around Tk2,500 crore. But now it is Tk1,000-Tk1,500 crore.
Mohammad Belal Uddin, proprietor of Belal Store, said, "The supply of rice, lentils, ginger and garlic has decreased, and the prices of these daily essentials have increased over the last 15-20 days. Many people are buying these products to stock-up on the items ahead of Ramadan. Besides, trucks carrying rice from Khatunganj are not available now. The ones that are giving the service now are charging more. All these factors have increased the prices of essentials."
According to wholesale and retail traders in Chattogram, the price hike of food products at wholesale markets has affected the retail level sale. Over the last 15-20 days, the price of rice, lentils, onions and garlic in the district has soared. However, the price of edible oil and spices are stable.
The price of per sack (50kg) of Beti rice 29 has increased to Tk2,000 from Tk1,900; Beti rice 28 to Tk2,250 from Tk2,150; Shwarna Shiddho rice to Tk2,100 from Tk1,950; Miniket Atap (not boiled) to Tk2,300 from Tk1,600; Miniket (boiled) to Tk2,150 from Tk1,700, and the price of Sada (white) Paijamhas has soared to Tk2,200 from Tk1,800 in the wholesale market over the period.
At retail level, Paijam rice is selling for Tk2,250 and Miniket for Tk2,350 per 50kg sack now.
At the same time, the wholesale price of the local variety of masoor daal (lentil), medium masoor and coarse masoor has increased by Tk12-Tk15 per kg, while the price of Australian dun peas and Australian chickpeas have increased by Tk6-Tk8 per kg.
Meanwhile, local onions are now selling for Tk40-Tk45 per kg while it was selling for Tk25 earlier at the wholesale level. The price of onions from Myanmar has also increased to Tk55-Tk58 from Tk35-Tk40 per kg. Besides, ginger was selling for Tk120-Tk150 per kg earlier. Now it is selling for Tk200-Tk250. The price of garlic has also increased to Tk140 from Tk120 per kg.
Omar Azam, general secretary of Khatunganj's rice traders' association, said, "The demand for rice is much higher than the demand for other products in the market. But, the supply of rice to the Khatunganj market has been decreasing. Rice is not being supplied to the wholesale market from other parts of the country. Besides, the supply of rice from the new harvest is yet to come. So, the price of rice is also slightly high."
Mohammad Idris, general secretary of the shop owners-association of Hamidullah Market in Khatunganj, said the supply of daily essentials to the market had suddenly decreased. If this situation continues, the price of products will increase in the month of Ramadan too, he said. The government should do something as soon as possible to increase the supply of daily essentials to the market, he said.
Mohammad Sekandar, proprietor of Messer's Ishak Traders, said the price of all essential products are rising. The price of different varieties of lentil in particular are increasing because these food items are being given as relief to poor people, he said.
"Our transactions have decreased by 50 per cent due to the coronavirus crisis. This situation has developed because traders from different regions of the country cannot come here now. Besides, banking hours have also been decreased," said Sekandar.
Echoing the same, Ahsan Ullah, another trader of Khatunganj, termed the reduced banking hours as a big problem for them. He said they could not send money to traders of other places through pay-order as the banking hours have been reduced. This has affected the supply of goods, he added.
Earlier, the per day turnover in Chaktai-Khatunganj wholesale market was around Tk2,500 crore. Now it is Tk1,000-Tk1,500 crore.