Protecting commoners from food price shock
The unabated hike in the prices of essential commodities had so far been making the general consumers dig into their pocket to buy those from the kitchen market. But, of late, as the low and fixed income group of people are no more able to keep pace with the price spiral of daily necessities, they have now rather gone for skimping even on the minimum of the daily diet of fish, milk, egg, chickens, pulses or other staples they had so far been surviving on. Consider, for example, the prices of farm produces including broiler chicken, egg, fish, etc. The price of broiler chicken has gone up by 50 per cent, while that of egg by 30 to 33 per cent within the span of a month, according to the Trading Corporation of Bangladesh (TCB). The price of egg is increasing on a weekly basis in the groceries.
As told reportedly by some grocers in the Mohammadpur and Lalmatia areas in the city, since the middle of January, the egg has been getting pricier by Tk 10 a dozen every week. Similarly, the prices of cultured fishes like ruhi, katla, pangas and tilapia have also seen a rise by Tk 20 to Tk 30 a kg every week. On the other hand, the sources of vegetable protein including lentils, chickpea, anchor pulses, etc have also been going up without any letup. The owners of the fish and poultry farms have their reasons to raise the prices of their products. With their numbers reduced significantly during the Covid-19 pandemic, the existing poultry farms in the country are finding it harder to meet the nation's demand for poultry meat and egg. So, there is the factor of demand-driven price hike of poultry products. Add to this the sharp rise in the prices of the livestock feed including that of poultry. Here foreign exchange crisis leading to restrictions on the import of the ingredients of animal feed comes into play. The case with fish feed is also not different. In fact, many factors at play are driving up the prices of these basic sources of animal protein for the common people. As the pulses, the cheaper sources of vegetable protein, have also to be imported in bulk quantities, their prices are also out of control. So, low- and fixed-income people have got their back to the wall?
This surely is having a disastrous impact, especially on their children's nutritional health. In this context, an international group concerned with nutrition, the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN), at a recent discussion event disclosed that 32.5 per cent of Bangladesh's under-5 children are now deficient in zinc, while 14 per cent of them are suffering from iron deficiency. Their physical growth and cognitive abilities are, as a result, getting severely impaired.
Given the realities, government intervention by way of introducing rationing system for basic foodstuffs as well as open market sales of essential goods at a subsidised price should be launched on a massive scale to protect the common people. At the same time, strict monitoring of the market of essential commodities should be in place so that dishonest traders may not take undue advantage of the situation.