Bangladesh’s performance appeared better in containing price of essentials compared to its neighbours despite a worldwide inflation, largely caused by the global political crisis, a situation that emerged when the COVID-19 pandemic slowed down the economic growth across the globe.
The South Asian countries like most nations elsewhere currently witnessing an uptrend of prices as well as supply crunch of major commodities like rice, edible oil, sugar, potato, flour and onion against the backdrop of the Russia-Ukraine conflict.
A visibly stricter government vigil kept the prices of most of those items comparatively lower in Bangladesh though experts and financial analysts feared to the Ukraine crisis to aggravate further market situation in South Asia.
A comparative analysis based on official data of the countries in the region suggest that the prices of the most of these items in Bangladesh remained lower than that of India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bhutan.
According to the latest exchange rate, Bangladesh’s Taka 1 equals to India’s Rs 0.84, Pakistan’s Rs 2.22, Sri Lanka’s Rs 3.76, Nepal’s Rs 1.33 and Bhutanese ngultrum (Nu) 0.84.
Rice is the staple food in these countries while average price of this item went up throughout the region compared to the same period of the last year.
According to latest official data, the price of per KG coarse rice in India reached an average of 36.41 rupee which is Taka 43 for per KG Aman and Boro coarse rice in Bangladesh.
In Sri Lanka, the price of per KG rice is now hovering around 280 rupees which skyrocketed to almost 500 rupees two months back.
In Pakistan, per KG rice (IRRI) has been registered at Rs 64.81 (64 rupees in Rawalpindi and 65.62 rupees in Multan).
In case of wheat and flour, all these countries are faced with a supply crunch to some extent due to the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war as these two countries are major suppliers of wheat to the global community.
The price of per kg flour (packaged) has been registered at Taka 47 in Bangladesh which is RS 33.85 in India and Rs 64.69 in Pakistan (63.75 rupees at Multan and 65.63 rupees at Faisalabad).
The edible oil price soared in this region as Indonesia, the major palm oil producer, slapped a ban on its export directly affecting India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka in recent time.
Jakarta, however, decided to withdraw the ban in fag-end of May stabilizing its domestic supply.
According to the latest media reports, cooking oil is more expensive in India, Pakistan and Nepal than Bangladesh.
The current price of per liter loose soybean oil is Taka 182 in Bangladesh, which is 169.06 rupees in India. However, the price of coconut oil, mostly used as edible oil in Sri Lanka, soared to 741 rupees per liter.
Prices of other cooking oils including sunflower, peanut oil and canola have raised 50-70 percent during the post-COVID period while the traders attributed the escalation to ongoing geopolitical tension.
In Pakistan, the newly formed government has abruptly increased the prices of edible oil and ghee by an unprecedented Rs 208 and Rs 213 to an all-time high of Rs 555 per kg and Rs 605 per litter.
The Nepalese people now need to spend around Rs 197.15 to 214.75 for a litter of bottled soybean oil.
The commonly consumed sugar is flying high in Sri Lanka with Rs 320 per KG which is around 83 rupees in Pakistan, Taka 80 in Bangladesh and 41.84 rupees in India.
The potato price in Bangladesh is comparatively much lower as it is being sold at Taka 22 per KG which is Rs 25.08 in India, Rs 48.50 at Lahore in Pakistan, Rs 400 rupees in Sri Lanka and 44.18 Bhutanese ngultrum.
On the other hand, tomatoes are also being sold at comparatively lower price in Bangladesh with Taka 54 per KG which is 52.49 rupees in India, 79.75 Bhutanese ngultrum, 70.50 rupees in Pakistan and 555 to 800 rupees in Sri Lanka.
Bangladesh has to rely heavily on imported onion, but its price is now stable, hovering around Taka 35 per KG, while it is Rs 24.07 in India, 53.1 Bhutanese ngultrum, Rs 61 at Lahore in Pakistan, and Rs 200 in Sri Lanka.
All price related data have been collected from the Department of Agriculture Marketing (DAM) of Bangladesh and Trading Corporation of Bangladesh (TCB), Department of Consumer Affairs, Price Monitoring Division of India, Statistics Department of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka, Agriculture Marketing Information Service of Pakistan, and Agriculture Market Information System under the Department of Agricultural Marketing and Cooperatives of Bhutan.
Since, Russia and Ukraine combined have a significant share of global supplies of oil, gas and other commodities, so their conflict hugely impacted the global market.
Even before the crisis, inflation in South Asian economies was rising relative to competitors in global markets while, it impacted South Asia because of their reliance for grains on both the conflicting nations.
Analysts say the additional shock in commodity prices would widen further the gap – increasing the relative cost of production in the region – and erode the competitiveness of cheap labour and energy-intensive industries.
Director General of Directorate of National Consumers Right Protection (DNCRP) AHM Shafiquzzaman said his office was continuing its drive to keep the prices of commodities under control.
“We are continuing our drives to refrain the traders from excessive profit. We are also motivating the traders to maintain their prices under tolerable level,” he told.
TCB spokesman Md Humayun Kabir said the state-run corporation took an initiative to sell three essential items at subsidised rates from June 22 to some one crore low-income group families ahead of the forthcoming Eid-ul-Azha.
“TCB will sale three essential items – edible oil, sugar, and lentil in low price. The state-run organisation regularly takes such initiatives to keep the market price of daily commodities affordable,” he added.