Regular sales activities at Khatunganj, one of the largest wholesale commodity hubs in the country, have dropped significantly as the fuel price hike has hindered consumer goods transportation.
Consumer goods traders of Khatunganj said since the abnormal increase in fuel oil prices, no vehicles left the market carrying goods on Saturday. Only one truck came to the market from Shariatpur with coriander. As a result, there was very little trading.
On Sunday, sales in the market were 50-60% less than normal time, said traders.
Azizul Haque, proprietor of M/s Haque Trading, said, due to the sudden price hike of fuel oil, no cargo vehicles have entered the market since Sunday (7 August).
"Even no vehicle came from Chattogram port and other land ports of the country. Similarly, no vehicle left the market for any district," he said.
Sales at M/s Aman Enterprises, which sells edible oil, wheat, sugar and pulses, dropped below Tk50 lakh in the last two days, whereas in regular times its daily sales hit at least 2.5 crore.
"Prices of products have been rising since Saturday due to the fuel price hike," Aman Ullah, the owner of the company, said.
"With most transports suspending operations due to the fuel price, the sales have dropped. However, some transports were operating on Sunday but they were charging extra fare," he added.
M/s Zaman Enterprises of Asadganj area of Khatunganj sells an average of 200-250 tonnes of MS rod per day. But in the last two days, the company sold less than 100 tonnes.
SM Kamruzzaman, the owner of M/s Zaman Enterprises, said, "Transport fare for the 13 tonnes rod from Chattogram to Sylhet's Baralekha used to be Tk17,000. Now the transport owners are asking for Tk26,000. Similarly fare to Sylhet sadar was Tk14,000 and now they are asking for Tk21,000."
General Secretary of Khatunganj Trade and Industries Association Syed Sogir Ahmad said, "In the last two days, sales at the market decreased by at least 60-70% compared to the normal time. Transport owners and drivers are in trouble due to the sudden fuel oil price hike."
A medium-sized truck with 9.5 tonnes of consumer goods from Khatunganj to Chakaria upazila of Cox's Bazar charged Tk11,500, which used to be Tk7,000.
Similarly, goods transportation cost from Bhomra land port to Khatunganj was a maximum of Tk28,000 per truck. On Sunday, it charged Tk32,000.
Chowdhury Zafar Ahmed, secretary general of Bangladesh Covered Van Truck Prime Mover Commodity Transport Owners Association, said, "Even though the government increased the fuel cost by 15% last November, we did not increase any fare. This time it has been increased to 34%. So we have decided to increase the fare by 51% on freight."
Chaktai, Khatunganj and Asadganj together have about 5,000 wholesale and retail shops in greater Khatunganj. There are 29 commercial bank branches and all insurance company offices.
In regular times, sales transactions worth Tk1,500 crore to Tk2,000 crore take place at the Khatunganj market.