Vegetable prices in the kitchen markets of the capital have come down in just one week as prices of edible oil, potatoes and onions increase further in this Ramadan amid the coronavirus-led movement curbs.
Bottled soybean oil and palm oil prices edged up Tk3-5 per litre, while potato and onion prices spiked by Tk2-7 per kg.
Traders said the ongoing "lockdown" from 14 April severely affected the market supply of most of the vegetables – raising the prices two to three times higher than the regular time. As the supply started to normalize and sales dropped substantially meanwhile, the prices have been simmering down.
Though the traders point finger at the movement restrictions for price hikes, the movement curbs keep the transportations of goods, commodities and perishable items out of its purview.
At the beginning of the "lockdown" and Ramadan, prices of lemon, brinjal and cucumber almost doubled to Tk120 per four pieces, Tk80 and Tk50 per kg respectively. Lemons are now at 20-50 per four pieces while brinjal and cucumber are at Tk40-50 and Tk30-40 per kg respectively.
Green chillies also reduced to Tk40 from previous Tk60 per kilogram. Prices of tomatoes, pointed gourd, snake gourd, okra, green coriander and mint leaves, bitter gourd, bottle gourd, green bean and pumpkin have also come down.
However, prices of some vegetables such as green papaya and radish have increased slightly due to supply crunch.
Hatirpool vegetable trader Abdul Basir said on top of the price fall, customer turnout at the kitchen market has also reduced substantially in last couple of days.
"The business has been sluggish for last one year. The came the lockdown. We are struggling to pay shop rents, let alone profit," he commented.
In lats week, onion prices have increased by Tk5 per kg to Tk35-40. Potatoes reach Tk20-25, up from previous rate of Tk18 per kg.
Branded soybean oil is at Tk140-145 per little while the non-brand loose oil is at Tk135-137. Palm oil is at Tk127, up from Tk120 per litre.
"If the items keep soaring like this, how would the middle-class and lower-middle-class survive? In other countries, traders lower the commodity prices in Ramadan while Bangladeshi businessmen make a quick buck during the holy month," said a customer Taslima Khanam.
Though onion and potato prices have been in an uptrend for last couple of days, a Karwanbazar trader Adil Haque said other cooking staples such as garlic and ginger prices are stable.
Besides, rice, fish, red meat, chicken and egg prices were also unchanged. However, traders said sales of both red meat and broiler have fallen.
Watermelon prices still high
In the face of unusual watermelon price hike, the authorities launched raids in several areas of the countries and mobile courts fined a number of traders on charge of selling the summer fruit in kilograms to overcharge the customers.
According to the Agricultural Produce Markets Regulation Act, melon prices are to be determined as the size of each fruit, not as per to those weight. A number of people took to the social media criticizing the overpricing through sales in kg.
Subsequently, the mobile courts fined many fruit traders who had been selling watermelon in weight-rates.
As this corresponded approached Hatirpool kitchen market fruit trader Mizan, he said if I would buy as a piece or in weight. He asked Tk560 for a medium sized watermelon. Then the fruit was put on the weight scale and it was eight kg.
In kg, the price was Tk520 – less than the piece rate.
"You cannot reduce the price by pressuring the traders as the supply is low against a rising demand," Mizan argued. He added many fruits also rot due to the rising mercury while rats also ruin watermelons in warehouses – which ultimately contribute to the price hike.
Besides, banana, Bengal quince (bael) and pineapple prices are also high as the fruits see higher demand for Iftar in Ramadan.
A pineapple is at Tk25-60 while a bael at Tk40-50, banana Tk20-50 per four pieces.