Khatunganj businessmen demand regular transportation of goods amid lockdown to avoid crisis
Md Parvez, the owner of Rahman Store in East Nasirabad in Chattogram, has stocked various consumer goods for one month after he learnt about the lockdown due to coronavirus. He usually buys goods for a few days or a week in advance from the Khatunganj wholesale market. Not only Parvez, but many other small businessmen from other nearby upazilas have done the same thing.
Seeking anonymity, a businessman said stockpiling by small businesses has caused a shortage in supply. Secondly, if the government does not ensure regular supply amid the lockdown period, there may be a shortage of goods.
Omar Azam, general secretary of the Chittagong Rice Traders Association, said, "Small businesses in the city's Kazir area, Reazuddin Market, etc, have kept extra stock, causing a shortage in supply. Moreover, the situation will deteriorate if the transportation of goods is hampered due to the lockdown."
However, denying the allegation of stockpiling, Md Parvez said, "We are small businessmen. We have stocked as per the demand of our customers, and our goods sell within a short time. The truth is customers are buying more than necessary."
Traders who have capital and a warehouse are stockpiling goods, he added.
Salah Uddin, a businessman at the port city's Karnaphuli market, said there have been ups and downs in price after they stockpiled rice. People are buying rice more than other goods, causing a crisis.
Solaiman Badshah, former general secretary of the Chaktai-Khatunganj Wholesaler Business Welfare Association, said, at present, there are not enough labourers and vehicles, which has caused the price hike. If the supply is hampered the price will go up.
The novel coronavirus outbreak has also affected all Dhaka bound trucks and covered vans. Fewer cargo trucks are coming to Dhaka, and the truck fare has jumped too.
Wholesalers, importers, businessmen and truck owners in the capital and other districts have said the number of Dhaka bound trucks has dropped.
Since last week, customers in the capital have been buying extra goods causing the price of oil, sugar, rice and other daily necessities to go up.
However, the overall demand has also dropped because many people left Dhaka after the closure of government and private company offices was announced.
"We used to bring two to three trucks of goods daily in the past, but we have receive only one truck at present and at an extra cost of Tk3000-Tk4000," Kawran Bazar's vegetable trader Mostofa Kamal told The Business Standard.
Ashraful Islam, an onion wholesaler at the capital's Kawran Bazar market, echoed the same: "At present I get only two to three trucks of goods whereas four to five trucks of goods used to arrive in the past. The truck fare has gone up by at least Tk4000."
A Dhaka bound truck from Benapole used to cost Tk14,000, but this has become Tk18,000.
As import through Benapole is closed, fewer trucks are coming to Dhaka, causing a shortage in supply.
Aziz Uddin, the general secretary of the Benapole Transport Owners Association, said many drivers have stopped driving due to coronavirus fear. As the availability of trucks has declined the fare has jumped a little.
The Bogura correspondent of The Business Standard says that vegetable supply in Bogura's Mahasthangarh wholesale market has dropped and consequently fewer goods are transported to Dhaka.
Mahtab, a truck transport businessman in Pabna, said transportation cost of goods from Pabna to Dhaka normally is Tk2 per kg, but this has increased to Tk2.5 because the number of trips has fallen due to a drop in demand.
Awami League General Secretary and Road Transport and Bridges Minister Obaidul Quader told the media on Tuesday about the ban on public transportation throughout the country. The embargo will be effective for public transport, launch and trains too from March 26.
However, trucks, covered vans, medicine supply, emergency services, energy, perishable goods, etc will be exempted from the ban.