COVID-19: Anticipating lockdown, panic buying prompts large jump in rice price


Anticipating lockdown, panic buying prompts large jump in rice price

Prices of both coarse and fine rice shot up by Tk 8-10 on Sunday compared to a week earlier, amid panic buying in the kitchen markets of the capital triggered by the coronavirus outbreak.

Traders said the price of coarse rice went up to Tk 46-48 from Tk 36-38 while fine rice was selling at Tk 58-60, up from Tk 50-52 a week amid panic of the ongoing virus.

They blamed the rise in customers who are buying essentials in large quantities and stockpiling them in anticipation of an impending lockdown to prevent the coronavirus from spreading.

Onion prices, however, decreased by Tk 10 a kg from just a day earlier, now that there is a glut in the market a week on from the lifting of India’s ban on exports of the bulb.

While visiting several retail markets, UNB correspondents found a kg of coarse rice was selling at Tk 46-48, which for the finer variety was Tk 60-62.

Prices are of course lower in the wholesale market.

Mahfuzur Rahman, owner of wholesaler M/S Fatema Rice Agency at Kawranbazar, said they were selling coarse rice at Tk 42-46; the mid-range Minicate variety at Tk 55-57; Najirshail at Tk 64-68 and Chinigura at Tk 100.

“The price jumped suddenly in response to surge in demand amid coronavirus outbreak. Those who usually purchase a sack went for three sacks, leading to millers jacking up prices,” Mahfuzur further explained.

He anticipates an adjustment downward once the new crop of local rice enters the market. Besides, those buying excessive amounts now will refrain from buying rice again for an extended period.

Rakibul Hasan, a retailer in Sadarghat where an influential wholesale market is based, insisted their mark-up on each kg of rice they sell is a mere Tk 2-3.

“We have no choice. We can only sell to our customers as per the wholesale market price, maybe adjusted for a token profit,” he added.

Meanwhile, the onion price came down by Tk 10 compared to the previous day.

Sabbir Hossain, a shopkeeper of Bangshal area, said they were selling onion for Tk 50-60, down from the range of Tk 60-70 on Saturday.

“We’re selling local onion at Tk 50 and imported ones at Tk 60. The price level was Tk 20 lower last week. But the price shot up following a rumour that shops can be shut down following coronavirus impact,” he added.

However, each kg garlic was sold at Tk 150-160, potato at Tk 30, Soybean at Tk 95, lentil at Tk 100-120, eggs at Tk 32-36 per four pieces on Sunday at different kitchen markets.

According to data from state-run Trading Corporation of Bangladesh (TCB), local onion was sold at Tk 50-60 while imported ones at Tk 40-60.

“On Sunday, each kg coarse rice was sold at Tk 38-50 while fine rice at Tk 55-65. Local variety of garlic was sold at Tk 100-140 while imported ones cost 150-180. A kg of soybean oil (bottle) was sold at Tk105-110 and super palm oil at Tk75-83,” the TCB data also showed.

Meanwhile, Aubergine was selling for Tk 55-60 a kg, papaya Tk 30-35 a kg, bitter gourds Tk 60-70, bottle gourds Tk50-60 per m piece, cucumber Tk40 a kg, carrots per kilogram Tk40-45 and tomatoes Tk40-50.

King of Fish Rui was selling for Tk 230-300 a kg, easily the most expensive variety of fish in the market. Pangash cost Tk 120-150 a kg and Tilapia Tk 120-180.

Consumers Association of Bangladesh (CAB) Secretary Humayun Kabir Bhuiyan said the government should bring all markets – retail, wholesale and mill gates - under close monitoring so that they can’t increase the prices of the essentials in the country.