Onion prices have taken a big jump, forcing people to cough up an additional Tk20-25 for a kilogram of the major cooking ingredient in a span of just three to four days.
Onions were selling for Tk60 per kg at different retail markets in the capital yesterday, even though prices were between Tk35 and Tk40 just a few days ago.
The price was reasonable last month with the arrival of locally cultivated onions in the market.
Businesspeople claimed that there had been a crisis in the supply system due to the imposition of the countrywide lockdown to rein in the spread of the deadly coronavirus.
Many wholesalers in Dhaka have already shuttered their shops. In normal times, the highest quantities of onions come to the capital from Pabna and Faridpur but that has dropped now.
Onion imports from India have remained halted for the last few days. Businessmen have blamed the above mentioned reasons for the increase in onion prices.
Rafiqul Islam, a grocer in Badda, told The Business Standard, "We used to buy onions from Karwan Bazar. But most wholesalers there have closed their shops and gone home. Several shops are still open but they have no stock of onions."
"We used to procure onions mostly from Pabna. Transport is not available due to the countrywide lockdown. Whenever a truck comes, it brings a less amount of onions," said Ashraful Haque, a wholesaler at Karwan Bazar.
Meanwhile, Haji Md Mazed, an importer of onions and garlic at Shyambazar, said onion imports from India have remained halted for the last few days due to the coronavirus pandemic. "On the other hand, labourers are not available for offloading the garlic and ginger imported through Chattogram port. Thus, a supply crisis has been created in the markets."
According to a market analysis by the state-owned Trading Corporation of Bangladesh (TCB), onions were sold for Tk35-40 per kg on April 6. They were selling for Tk60 yesterday. However, a number of grocers sold them for Tk55.
Besides, garlic and ginger have seen unbridled increases in price.
According to the TCB, ginger was selling for Tk200-260 per kg yesterday, making a leap from the earlier Tk120-150. People paid up to Tk300 for a kilogram of imported ginger.
The situation was similar in the case of garlic. Consumers had to pay Tk200 for a kilogram of imported garlic, which was selling for Tk140-150 a few days ago.
People have predictably been giving vent to their disappointment over the jump in prices of essentials in the retail markets.
"The prices of all essential commodities, including rice, oil, onions, garlic and ginger, have already skyrocketed. We are already in a crisis over the coronavirus issue. In such a situation, it will be difficult for us to bear family expenses if the prices of essentials keep increasing this way," said Jahangir Hossain, a customer at Rampura bazar.
According to the TCB, coarse rice is now selling for Tk42-50 per kg, standard quality of fine rice for Tk60-68 and medium quality of fine rice for Tk55-60.
People have to pay Tk95 to buy a litre of loose soybean oil, which was being sold for Tk88-92 just a month ago.
Ghulam Rahman, president of the Consumers Association of Bangladesh, has expressed his concern over the rapid increase in prices of essential commodities.
"We are already in a state of fear due to the coronavirus pandemic. Many people have lost their sources of income as a result of the Covid-19 crisis. People will suffer immensely if the essentials' market grows unstable in such a situation."
He called upon the authorities to fix the problems in the supply system immediately.