The Financial Express

Common man’s luxury of drinking tea at roadside shops turns costlier

| Updated: September 18, 2021 16:31:39

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Expenditure on a cup of tea at roadside shops in the city has also increased by Tk 1.0-2.0 amid a rocketing trend of sugar, liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) and condensed-milk prices, said consumers and shop owners.

Such price hike has added to the woes of mainly common people, the key consumers of roadside snacks, as they have witnessed their income notably dwindle during the pandemic.

A cup of tea price increased to Tk 6.0-8.0 in many roadside shops from Tk 5.0-Tk 6.0 earlier.

Tea mixed with sugar and condensed milk is mainly sold in around 0.5 million roadside tea shops across the country due to the higher cost for liquid or skimmed milk, said insiders.

Prices of condensed milk increased by Tk 15 per 400 gram container in a month while LPG gas by Tk 150 per cylinder and sugar by Tk 10-12 a kg, according to the Trading Corporation of Bangladesh and other trading sources.

Roadside tea-stall owners also increased the price of their tea by Tk 1.0 to 2.0 per cup, and so many customers were seen wrangling with them for the last few days.

To avoid any hassles with customers over prices, many tea-stall owners were found switching to smaller cups.

"I eat a bun and a banana in my breakfast and evening snacks and then enjoy a cup of tea at roadside tea shops", said Mohsin Molla, a rickshaw puller at Poolpar area in Rayer Bazar in the city.

He said prices of bun, biscuits and other bake items have increased by Tk 2.0- 3.0 a piece a few months back.

Now the price of a cup of tea has increased by Tk 2.0, he said.

He said monthly costs for the breakfast and snacks have increased by Tk 500-Tk 600 each during the pandemic when their income declined notably.

Md Jakaria, a tea-stall owner at Sankar in West Dhanmondi, said sugar prices jumped to Tk 80 a kg last week from Tk 72.

He said prices of condensed milk increased by Tk 6.0 per container in a week and Tk 25 per container in last six months.

Tea prices increased by 10 per cent in last one and half year, but no tea-stall owner raised the price of any cup of tea even though they witnessed a low customer during the lockdown, he said.

Besides, prices of LPG cylinder price spiked to Tk 1150 from Tk 1000 a month back.

He said profits in cigarettes have also declined while daily ‘rent’ for the shop space has also increased.

Abdul Gani, a teashop owner at Dhanmondi -27 area, said he didn’t raise prices but changed the cups.

“I’ve bought smaller-sized cups which contain a 15-20 per cent lesser amount of tea than that of previous cups to avoid unnecessary hassles with the customers,” he said.

He said that to make 100 cups of milk-tea it needs four containers of condensed milk worth Tk 300, 1.25 kg of sugar pricing Tk 100, tealeaves worth Tk 100 and fuel approximately of Tk 50.

The minimum cost to make a cup of tea is Tk 6.0, he said.

However, the government fixed the maximum retail price of sugar at Tk 74-75 a kg a few days back, which is yet to be reflected in the market, according to trading sources.

Most of the groceries are still selling loose sugar at Tk 78-82 a kg and packet sugar at Tk 84-88 a kg.

Fuad Hasan, proprietor of Mohammadpur-based Madina Enterprise, a distributor, said condensed milk prices increased mainly because of the rocketing price trend of palm oil.

He said palmoline fat, sugar, skimmed milk and other vegetable fats are key raw materials for the condensed milk.

Mr Hasan said major refiners like Meghna Group, Abul Khair and others are main suppliers of condensed milk in the country. 

Consumers Association of Bangladesh vice president SM Nazer Hossain, said increasing costs of daily essentials have been battering the low and middle-income consumers during this pandemic when income declined notably.

He said a surge in prices of tea, bun or other snacks at roadside teashops directly hit hard the low-income, daily wage earners as such shops cover up a good portion of their daily calorie intake.

He said prices of most of commodities – from rice to cooking gas – have augmented the woes of the commoners.

He said the government didn’t review its import duties on import-dependent products like sugar, edible oil despite their rocketing trend in the international market for the last one and a half years. 

Apart from raising market monitoring, he urged the government to remove import duties on such products to give commoners some sort of relief.

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