Essential prices heat up, consumer demand cools24 March 2023
Business Report :
Al-Amin, a private job holder, was meekly milling around a butcher shop in a market in Segunbagicha.
After a point, he seemed to have mustered some courage. He approached the butcher and quietly asked for half a kilogramme of beef.
The request visibly upset the shopkeeper, who agreed to sell the half kg.
"My 11-year-old son has promised to fast. But he wants to break his fast with beef. The price of the meat is very high, while money is already tight these days," he said.
Instead of the Tk800 per kg of beef, he spent Tk400 for half, but said, "If not for my son's request, I could have spent the money on other household items."
This was the current face of the lower- and middle-class: shy, embarrassed, with nothing to do but persevere.
Another private job holder, Shariful Islam, was shopping in Kawran Bazar. He said the prices of almost everything had already increased.
"I came to this bazar to get better deals. But the prices aren't too low here either," he said. At a time of raging inflation, which has yet to be matched by wage or salary increases, consumers are having difficulties procuring even the most essential items.
The overall inflation rate in rural areas increased to 8.80% in February from 8.67% in January, outpacing urban inflation. Similarly, the food price index rose to 8.19% from 7.92%.
Traders, too, are feeling the pressure.
People have not spent at the same pace as they would during the beginning of previous Ramadans.
Mizanur Rahman, a seller at Badda Mizan General Store, said, "Because people have to spend much more than before, many have almost run out of money by the end of the month. So, they are buying much less than they used to." "In the past, we used to see a rush for grocery shopping in the week ahead of Ramadan. The Fridays were the busiest days for us. But this year's situation is completely different," Ali Hossain, shopkeeper of Yasin General Store in the capital's Karwan Bazar, said while talking to the reporter.
"Our overall sales have now come down to just half. We have not even seen our regular number of customers today [Friday]. The abnormal price hikes is the reason, perhaps," he added.
"At such a time, we would sell worth Tk15,000-20,000 each day, which now declined to Tk5,000-6,000. It is nothing higher than our regular sales at all," said Md Shadhon, another Karwan Bazar-based trader, echoing Ali Hossain.
Traders at several other kitchen markets in the capital said the same and estimated that their sales fell by nearly 50% of what they used to sell on the days ahead of Ramadan.
On Wednesday, State Minister Kamal Ahmed Mojumdar said, "We have to see the price varies in the wholesale and retail markets. They also have to be fined."
"Every day 5,000-7,000 chickens die from the chickens that come into Dhaka. These chickens are not dumped anywhere, then where does it go? Maybe they are sold at various hotels and restaurants. That is why we are monitoring the butcher's shops and the markets," he added.
Meanwhile, four significant poultry association producers have committed to bringing down chicken prices in the wholesale market by Tk30-40 per kg.
AHM Shafiquzzaman, chief of the Directorate of National Consumer Rights Protection, said, "These companies will sell wholesale at Tk190 to Tk195 per kg from their farm gates. Chicken is currently sold for Tk220 to Tk230."
The Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry said today that it would recommend importing chicken and beef if their prices remain volatile.