The coronavirus outbreak in China has caused volatilities in the Bangladeshi kitchen market, especially in the prices of ginger and garlic for which the country is dependent on Chinese imports.
The prices of the two spices items in Dhaka shot up by Tk20-30 in the last two weeks. There is no scarcity in the supply of these commodities though.
Businessmen said the prices of ginger and garlic have risen as China has stopped export of ginger and garlic due to coronavirus outbreak. If Chinese supplies do not normalise as soon as possible, it would lead to scarcity and further price spiral of the items.
Having been uncertain about the possible end of the Chinese volatility, businessmen are mulling to boost import of ginger and garlic from India, Indonesia and Myanmar as alternatives to China.
During a visit to Dhaka's kitchen markets, this correspondent found that imported garlic were selling for Tk220-230 per kilogram (kg) at the retail level. The wholesale price was Tk180-185 per kg.
But, locally grown garlic were selling at the retail level for a lower price, maximum Tk200 per kg.
Alongside the local ginger, Chinese, Indian and Indonesian varieties are also available in the market.
In Dhaka's kitchen markets, imported ginger on Friday sold for Tk180-200 per kg, which was earlier Tk150-160.
But locally-grown ginger is still available at Tk110-120 per kg.
However, the Trading Corporation of Bangladesh (TCB) market analysis stated the price of ginger has increased by approximately nine percent in the last one month.
Businessmen said as garlic import from China has remained stalled, the price of this item has gone up and may rise further.
Chinese Holiday has been extended till February 17 due to the coronavirus outbreak. However, the country did not give any clear declaration how many days they will keep their export activities halted.
While talking to The Business Standard, Sumon, a wholesaler at Karwan Bazar kitchen market, said there is no scarcity in the supply of the two daily commodities, but the price has increased slightly.
As importers and dealers are selling ginger and garlic at a higher rate, we are compelled to sell these items for higher prices too, he added.
Hazi Md Majed, one of the garlic-onion importers of Dhaka's Shyambazar, said, as there is no specific deadline when China will resume their export activities, India's Kerala may be an alternative source of ginger while Indonesia may be a good source of garlic.
Traders said only a portion of the country's demand for garlic and ginger is met with locally grown ones while imports meet the rest.
Enayetullah, the president of Bangladesh Spice Wholesalers Association, said the quality of China's ginger and garlic are better than India's. The two spices were earlier imported from India. Later, China's produce replaced those.
"If we are unable to import those items from China, India will be an alternative source for those spices. Presently, some spices are coming from India," he said.
Most of the imported Indian products enter Bangladesh through the Hili land port. Businessmen at the port said traders have been importing ginger from India after China stopped their export activities. But the amount of the import is insufficient for Bangladesh.
Harun Ur Rashid, president of the importers' group in Hili port, said some businessmen have been importing ginger through this land port for one week. So there will be no crisis. If China's problem is prolonged, import volume from India has to be increased. There is no scope to create a crisis.
The Ministry of Agriculture had set a target of 7.13 lakh tonnes of garlic production in the 2018-19 fiscal year. But the target could not be met. Some 6.13 lakh tonnes of garlic were grown in the country in that fiscal year.
Besides, ginger cultivation was also lower than the target in the last fiscal year, with the production 1.92 lakh tonnes against targeted 2.34 lakh tonnes.