The prices of edible oil – an essential commodity for cooking – have surpassed all previous records in the consumer goods market of Chattogram. The sugar and wheat markets are also unusually high.
In the last two weeks, the price of edible oil per maund (37.32 kilograms) went up by Tk300-400 in Khatunganj – the largest wholesale market for consumer goods. The prices of wheat and sugar also rose by at least Tk100.
Although imports remain normal, the fear of possible aggravation in Covid situation during winter and subsequent announcement of lockdown in the country has triggered the unusual price hike in these three commodities, said people related to the market.
Import complexities have not yet been fully resolved, which has had a negative impact on the market. As a result, the prices of these essential commodities have gone up, thanks to the tendency of goods stockpiling among domestic importers and traders, traders said.
The supply chain has also been disrupted due to the resumption of lockdown in many countries during the winter season, they added.
Edible oil traders in Khatunganj said soybean oil sold for Tk3,300-3,350 per maund in mid-October. In the last two weeks, the price went up in stages every day to as high as Tk3,700 on Tuesday. This is the highest price of soybean so far at the wholesale level.
Generally, the demand for soybean oil rises as palm oil freezes in winter. Both the demand and price of palm oil remain low at this time. But at present, the product's price is on the rise although its demand is declining.
At present, directly extractable S Alam Palm Oil is selling for Tk3,350 per maund at mill gate, DO of City Palm Oil for Tk3,260 and TK Palm Oil (DO) for Tk3,180.
However, directly extractable palm oil of Meghna Group at Dhaka mills is selling for Tk3,400 and Bashundhara Palm Oil for Tk3,420 per maund.
Besides, super palm oil (edible oil made by refining Palm Oil to the maximum level) of various companies is selling for Tk3,480-3,550 per maund.
Meanwhile, the wholesale markets of wheat and sugar are currently witnessing an upward trend. According to traders, per maund sugar is selling for Tk2,130-2,150 per maund. The price was maximum Tk2,050 in the last two weeks.
In the last two weeks, Russian wheat sold for Tk840-850 per maund and Canadian wheat for Tk960. Both the varieties are now selling for Tk940 and Tk1,060 respectively.
Abdur Razzak, an edible oil trader at Khatunganj, said the price of soybean oil in the country is usually limited to Tk3,000 per maund during normal times. A rise in demand leads to its price hike by several hundred taka in the winter season. But this year, soybean oil prices have risen to record levels.
The instability in the consumer goods market due to the coronavirus has exacerbated the crisis, he reckoned.
Sector players said when the coronavirus broke out in the country, prices of consumer goods started to fluctuate. Later, when the global lockdown situation eased a bit from July, the import of goods also became normal to the country's market.
However, despite an increase in the tendency of stockpiling goods globally, the country is not importing enough products to meet the demand and a possible crisis.
Moreover, the government does not have a real picture of the actual demand, production, import and net supply of consumer goods in the country, causing a lapse in its initiatives to control the market.
According to Khatunganj traders, a few of the country's top oil importers and refining mills are not able to supply edible oil as per the demand. Hence, there has been a big difference between the prices of DO edible oil and ready-made edible oil.
Even though the global market is low, the uncontrolled increase in the prices of edible oil in Bangladesh will make the market more volatile, they said.
Meanwhile, the owner of consumer goods trader M/S Ishaq Saudagar, Md Sekandar, said the booking price of sugar in the international market is still between Tk1,400 and Tk1,500 per maund. But in Khatunganj, the same sugar is selling for Tk2,130-2,140.
The trader claimed such a situation has been created in the market due to the manipulation by importers and traders.