Rice prices Friday soared to two-year high. Coarse variety of rice was selling at Tk 50 a kilogram in Dhaka city markets.
The prices of 10 key essentials marked a fresh hike on the same day amid the ongoing coronavirus outbreak.
Traders have attributed this escalation to panic buying by city dwellers, fearing possible lockdowns.
Rice prices hit an all-time high in September 2017 when coarse rice prices reached Tk 55-57 a kg.
The Trading Corporation of Bangladesh has recorded 10 to 31-per cent hike in rice prices in the past three days.
Prices of onion, chicken, egg and pulses showed a notable hike on the day. Garlic, ginger, loose soya bean and palm oil, potato and lemon also rose significantly.
Coarse rice increased in value to Tk 45-50 a kg, medium variety to Tk 50-56 and finer ones to Tk 60-70 --Tk 3.0-Tk 4.0 hike in a day.
Jaber Hossain, a grocer in Akhra Mandir area in Rayerbazar, accused wholesalers at Mohammadpur Krishi Market, Babubazar, Badamtoli of raising prices despite having a huge stock.
"I bought 'Guti Swarna' rice (a coarse variety) at Tk 43.5 a kg today from Mohammadpur Krishi Market which was Tk 36.5 five days back," he told the FE.
Mr Hossain said higher- and middle-income customers are responsible for such a hike as they are purchasing rice and other essentials in large volume.
Badamtoli-based trader Mohammad Asadullah said everyone is now busy buying rice for one to three months.
Millers have raised prices overnight following the rising demand, he added.
Mr Asad said prices of seasonal Swarna have been raised by Tk 250-260 per sack (50 kg) by millers in the past three days.
Finer-variety Miniket prices jumped to Tk 2,800-2,900 per sack at mill gates from Tk 2600-2650 a few days ago.
Consumers Association of Bangladesh (CAB) secretary Humayun Kabir Bhuiyan likened this price hike to 'the rubbing of salt into the wound' of the commoners.
He said both city wholesales and mill gates should be brought under close monitoring by government agencies to avoid such an artificial hike.
There is no scarcity of rice, onion and other essentials for now. So, it is imperative to keep prices within the reach of commoners in such a critical time.
According to the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS), the country produced an all-time high of 37.2 million tonnes of rice in fiscal year 2018-19.
Aman harvesting season ended in January and the government is expecting 14.5-million tonnes of rice.
The state warehouses have also a handsome stock of 1.5-million tonnes.
Visiting some kitchen markets on Friday, the FE found four pieces of lemon selling at the record Tk 45-60, according to vendors.
Though it is a peak potato harvesting season, prices of the carbohydrate-rich vegetable shot up by Tk 6-7 a kg as sold at Tk 25-35, depending on varieties.
Local garlic prices hit Tk 120-140 a kg which was Tk 60-80 only three days back. Imported garlic prices increased to Tk 180-200 from Tk 160-180 a kg.
Ginger also shot up in price by Tk 20 a kg as sold at Tk 150-190 a kg, depending on quality.
Pulses, especially lentil, further rose in value by Tk 10 a kg.
Loose soybean prices shot up to Tk 94-96 a litre from Tk 88-90 a litre earlier. Palm oil prices also witnessed Tk 2.0-3.0 hike at per litre.
Many traders told the FE that prices of some essentials might rise further if the agencies concerned do not intervene seriously.