Six key essential items for Ramadan were still selling at much higher prices than that of the government-fixed rates which market experts attributed to lax monitoring.
Just ahead of the fasting month on April 12, the Department of Agricultural Marketing (DAM) fixed maximum retail prices (MRPs) and wholesale prices of sugar, onion, chickpea, soybean oil, date and lentil.
Except bottled soybean oil, other commodities were selling at their previous highs, according to city groceries and Trading Corporation of Bangladesh (TCB).
Though DAM fixed MRP at Tk 68, loose sugar was selling at Tk 70-Tk 75 a kilogram and branded packet sugar at Tk 75-Tk 78 a kg for last three weeks.
The maximum retail price of chickpea was set at Tk 67 while the product was selling at Tk 68-Tk 90 depending on its quality, according to city groceries and chain shops.
MRP of coarse lentil was fixed at 69 a kg but it was retailing at Tk 70-Tk 72 a kg while finer lentil at Tk 110-Tk 120 a kg against Tk 103 per kg.
Common date was retailing at Tk 120-Tk 180 while medium quality at Tk 250-Tk 400 a kg in the city retail market against the fixed rate of Tk 100 and Tk 250 a kg respectively.
MRP of onion was set at Tk 40 a kg when it was found that the spice was retailing at Tk 40-Tk 50 a kg in different city areas.
Anwar Hossain, a grocer at Modhubazar in West Dhanmondi, told the FE that they were selling loose sugar at Tk 74 a kg as they purchased it at Tk 70 a kg before Ramadan.
"I have heard that the government has fixed MRP of sugar at Tk 68 a kg but it is not possible for us to follow it as the rate is below my purchase price."
The price should be fixed at least two weeks before the fasting month when the grocers usually buy products for Ramadan from wholesales, he said, adding that MRP of packet sugar is Tk 78 a kg and wholesale rate is Tk 73-Tk 74 a kg.
The wholesale prices of sugar were also higher at Moulvibazar in the city on Thursday as it was sold at Tk 65-Tk 67 a kg against DAM-fixed rate of Tk 63.
Assistant director of DAM TM Rashed Khan said wholesale and retail prices of essentials were fixed, taking into account annual demand, demand during Ramadan, total imports and import costs, local production, local production costs, availability of products etc.
As per their market analysis, he said, there are enough supply of the products thanks to a good volume of import as well as bumper local production of essentials like onion.
Mr Khan also said teams of the commerce ministry were monitoring the market regularly to ensure the prices of those commodities as fixed by DAM.
Consumers Association of Bangladesh (CAB) secretary Humayun Kabir Bhuiyan said the prices of essentials increased remarkably before Ramadan.
Traders and companies raised the prices of key essentials including rice, edible oil, sugar and milk notably before the fasting month amid almost absence of market monitoring, he added.
He said the government had no preparation for a lockdown considering the overall value chain of essentials.
Mr Bhuiyan also urged the government agencies concerned to beef up their market operation to give the commoners some sort of relief during this Ramadan and ongoing lockdown.
Meanwhile, prices of broiler and sonali/Pakistani chicken, cultured fish witnessed a slight decline while prices of rice, edible oil, vegetables and other commodities remained static maintaining their previous high last week.
Coarse rice was retailed at Tk 48-Tk 52, medium at Tk 56-Tk 60, and finer rice at Tk 66-Tk 82 a kg, depending on their varieties and qualities.