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Bangladesh - January 9, 2024

Food prices down globally but increased in Bangladesh

Analysis of FAO-BBS data

Mahfuja Mukul : Last year (2023), global food prices fell by 13.7 percent compared to the previous year. While at the same time food prices in Bangladesh increased by 10.06 percent.
This picture was seen in the analysis of Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS) data along with recently published United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) data. FAO’s Food Price Index 2023 report says that food prices decreased by 10.1 percent in December 2023 (point to point) compared to December 2022. And the entire year (in 2023 compared to 2022) has decreased by 13.7 percent. The report says that prices of almost all types of food products have fallen during this time, except for sugar.
At the same time as this report was published, the analysis of Bangladesh statistics (BBS data) showed that Bangladesh’s food price inflation (point-to-point) increased from a minimum of 7.76 percent in January to a maximum of 12.54 percent in August. In 2023, average food price inflation was never less than 10.06 percent. Data shows that food inflation has been on the rise since the beginning of 2023. It increased in the latter part of the year. Despite the various steps taken by the government, the price of food products could not be reined in. The violence of business syndicates has increased.
Last August, food inflation rose to double digits for the first time, the highest in a decade. Food inflation was over 12 percent for the next three months. Inflation was 12.56 percent in October, the highest in the last 11 years and 9 months.
In this situation, a World Bank report last week mentioned that the high price of food has become a concern for 71 percent of Bangladeshi households. There has been high food inflation in the country for a year.
The report also said that food inflation in neighboring countries India, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Bhutan and Nepal was much lower than that of Bangladesh.
Adnan Al Nahia, an economics lecturer at Jahangirnagar University told that if the price of a product increases in the world market in our country, traders have a tendency to implement it immediately, which is not the case when the price is reduced. In this, the common people pay the price increase in the world market but do not get the benefit of the price reduction. Bangladesh’s low-income and lower-middle-class families are becoming food insecure.
Those concerned say that the recently completed year 2023 was spent with the discomfort of commodity prices. People were grinding throughout the year especially with the price of daily necessities. Countrymen have not seen so much volatility in commodity prices in any single year in the recent past. Due to the effect of high inflation, the rise in commodity prices was sluggish from the beginning to the end of the year. People with limited incomes struggle to support their families throughout the year, especially to meet food expenses. Many have been forced to restrict food and drink. Reduced the amount of food purchased. Many families could not meet the demand of fish, meat, eggs, milk throughout the year due to skyrocketing prices.
The price of goods in the market was very high throughout the year. Sometimes the prices of eggs, sometimes onions or potatoes have increased. The prices of vegetables, fish and meat were beyond the reach of common people. Apart from this, the prices of essential commodities like oil, dal, sugar, flour and flour were also at an uncomfortable level.
Salim Raihan, executive director of South Asian Network on Economic Modeling (SANEM), a private research institute, told about last year’s commodity price situation, food inflation has gone out of control, which is a concern for all classes of people. No one got relief during the year by going to the market.
He said that the initiatives taken by the government in the last one year have not been of much use. There was an attempt to control the market by importing several products, but it did not pay off. Besides, at the end of the year political unrest and violence reduced the income of the lower class. This increased their suffering.
In the last one year, the prices of several essential commodities have decreased marginally. But the list of products whose prices have gone up is long. Trading Corporation of Bangladesh (TCB), a government marketing agency, keeps a regular account of market rates.
According to the information of the organization, only the price of rice and flour has decreased in the last one year. On the other hand, prices of pulses, oil, sugar, onion, ginger, garlic, potatoes, eggs, spices, fish and meat have increased.
Throughout the year, the global war situation caused some distress in the world economy. At the beginning of the year, there was a shortage of supply of goods due to increase in oil and gas prices, shortage of dollars, shortage of dollars in import of goods and raw materials, increase in transportation costs. Still, prices of various import-based commodities like wheat, sugar and edible oil have fallen in the international market this year. But importers have not cut prices due to the dollar crunch and higher import costs fueled by fuel prices. Consumers did not benefit from this in the local market of Bangladesh.
Rather, a class of unscrupulous traders capitalized on those problems throughout the year and built market syndicates. In fact, the profiteers have looted the illegal profits by increasing the prices several times than what they should have increased.
A mid-year analysis by the Center for Policy Dialogue (CPD) found that high commodity prices in Bangladesh are not just due to external or international markets. Behind this is the lack of competitive environment, market syndicates, lack of necessary monitoring and lack of proper enforcement of the existing laws through the concerned institutions.
These issues were discussed with SM Najer Hossain, vice president of Consumers Association of Bangladesh (CAB), an organization working on consumer rights. He said that what is happening in the market cannot be called business. Consumer hostage robbery going on. It is totally unethical.
He also said that the problem is due to lack of good governance in the market. Traders are setting prices as they please, ignoring any government regulations. The products whose prices were fixed were limited to paper. Sometimes the consumer department imposes some fines. Businessmen are not moved by it. They don’t care.

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