Bumper production keeps city happy during blockade
Farmers of Sirajdikhan in Munshiganj water their cabbages. To keep up with demand, this is the second batch of the vegetables they are growing and planning to go for a third stint. They said production of vegetables have been really good this year. Photo: Anisur Rahman
Despite frequent strikes and blockades, the city’s kitchen markets have still been afloat thanks to adequate vegetable supplies from adjacent districts.
Though prices of key essentials have not seen a major change in the city markets, there prevails a significant price difference from one market to another.
With most products, the price gap is hovering around Tk 5 to Tk 15 per kilogram and is almost double in some cases.
Green chilli was trading at Tk 35 a kg at Karwan Bazar kitchen market on Wednesday. It was selling at Tk 60 at Mohammadpur Town Hall market, around 3 kilometres away from Karwan Bazar.
A kg of local onions cost Tk 90 at Mirpur-11 kitchen market, while the same was selling at Tk 95 at Mirpur-1.
“Customers often have to pay high due to such price gaps. It is one way of deceiving people,” said Humayun Kabir Bhuiyan, general secretary of Consumers Association of Bangladesh.
Traders of the city’s kitchen markets could charge any price they wanted as the government did not monitor the price difference at retail level, he said.
“Customers often come under fire when they bargain for lower price,” added Bhuiyan.
Prices might vary from one market to another as transportation and operation costs also vary from market to market, traders said.
“We always try to provide fresh quality products and do not tamper in weight. So, our prices, in some cases, are little bit higher,” said a trader at Mohammadpur Town Hall market.
At least five other traders of the market claimed the same.
A small trader has to earn at least Tk 1,000 daily to maintain his livelihood, said Md Abdur Rahman, an executive member of Mohammadpur Town Hall City Corporation Kitchen Market Shop Owners’ Association.
“Our prices may vary since our sale volume is not similar to Karwan Bazar’s,” he added.
Retail prices usually vary from market to market according to distance. But it should be at a reasonable level, said Zaid Bakht, research director of Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies (BIDS).
“Currently, agricultural supply chain has been hit hard due to the series of blockades and hartals. It might be a reason behind the abnormal price variation at different markets,” he observed.
Traders might have charged higher prices to neighbouring people as customers often failed to go to markets situated elsewhere amid political unrest, he added.
Prices of winter vegetables are on the decline at Karwan Bazar as an increased number of farmers are bringing vegetables to the wholesale hub amid the ongoing political agitations.
Radish was selling at Tk 10 a kg at Karwan Bazar, which was Tk 15 two weeks ago. A piece of big cauliflower cost Tk 20 at the same market, down from Tk 35-Tk 40 a few weeks ago.
“Farmers in nearby districts have had a bumper yield of vegetables this year. So, in spite of risks, they are bringing their produce to the capital for better prices,” said Lokman Hossain, general secretary of Karwan Bazar kitchen market wholesalers’ association.
Vegetable farmers of Munshiganj, Tangail, Narsingdi and Manikganj, the adjacent districts of Dhaka, and Savar are providing around 30 percent of the total requirement of the market.
As the demand for vegetables generally remains low during shutdowns and blockades, this supply is enough for the Karwan Bazar market, Lokman added.
The southern and northern districts such as Chuadanga, Kushtia, Dinajpur, Nilphamari, Natore, Bogra and Mymensingh meet the rest of the demand, around 70 percent, on normal days, he said.