PRICES of beef, garlic, ginger and other essential kitchen items have increased in the capital before Eid-ul-Azha. The price of beef increased by Tk 20–40 a kilogram, selling for Tk 600–620 a kilogram in Dhaka on Friday. The price of garlic increased by Tk 10–20 a kilogram while the price of ginger increased by Tk 20 a kilogram. Prices of rice, edible oil, sugar and egg have, meanwhile, remained high for some weeks. Traders try to justify the price increase saying that prices of cow have increased as Eid-ul-Azha approaches. There so far has been no market intervention on part of the government to keep the kitchen market stable. During the Covid crisis, soaring prices of protein sources such as beef and egg and food grain can adversely impact public health, particularly in low-income population. In such a situation of increased cost and reduced income, many have cut down on their food consumption. The impact of an inequitable access to food will eventually affect the nutritional status of the larger portion of population unless the government takes steps to keep the market stable.
Prices of cow naturally increase before Eid-ul-Azha. It is also the time when demand for onions, edible oil, ginger, garlic, and other spices increases. There is an established pattern of consumer demand for certain kitchen items before Eid that the commerce ministry could easily monitor and make effective market intervention to keep the market stable. The Consumers Association of Bangladesh has for long highlighted the importance of market monitoring and urged the government to improve its capacity in this regard. Economists and public health experts have repeatedly urged the government to keep prices stable during the Covid outbreak. Some studies have already showed how decline in income and increase in prices have impacted people’s nutritional intake. A Right to Food Bangladesh report says that about 87 per cent of the poor have had problems in managing nutritious food supplies and 5 per cent of the poor lived on one meal a day in April–May 2020 when restrictions on public movement were in force. The only intervention made on part of the government is the operation of open market sales for rice and a few other items for subsidised prices, but it is not enough.
While the government must take early steps to tackle the situation at hand, it must also take long-term initiatives to prevent market manipulation before Eid. The government must invest in developing a market information system that generates accurate and timely data of production, supply stock and market prices as well as information on other factors that affect pricing. There should be a sustainable mechanism against market control by trade syndicates. The government must act immediately, recognising the impact of price instability during a public health emergency.