With only a few days left before Eid-ul-Fitr, the biggest festival for the country’s Muslim community, the wholesale and retail prices of spices increased both in Dhaka and Chattogram. Consumers alleged that prices of spices increased suddenly as a vested group of opportunistic traders became active to cash in on the surge in demand for the essential cooking ingredients ahead of Eid.
The traders have gotten away with increasing the spice prices because of a lack of monitoring and surveillance by the market watchdogs, they said. While visiting spice markets in the city in last two days, this correspondent found that prices of almost all the spices have increased. At Karwan Bazar, cardamom prices increased by Tk 400-500 per kilogram in the span of a week. It was being sold at Tk 2800-2900 per kg, which was Tk 1400-1500 during this time last year. Nutmeg and pistachios prices have also increased.
For cooking and medicinal purpose, 44 types of spices are used in the country. Of these, majority are imported from abroad. According to traders, yearly 2.5 lakh tonnes spices are imported into the country. Retailers at different spice markets informed that the imported spices are often of medium and low qualities. “As prices of high quality spices are out of capacity of local buyers,” they argued, adding a corrupt syndicate adulterate even the low-quality spices.
They said these low and medium quality spices are marketed under the brands of renowned companies. Some importers said among the 44 types of spice used in our country, at least 12 are imported ones. They said through the Chattogram sea port, an average of 1.5 lakh tonnes spices are imported annually. Majority of the importers are based in Chaktai-Khatunganj wholesale spice market in Chattogram.
Recently the High Court ordered to remove 52 brands of different adulterated food items from the market after the brands failed to meet the standard set by Bangladesh Standard Testing Institute (BSTI). The list of banned brands include some spice items also. Bangladesh Spices Importers Association Vice President Amar Das told the Bangladesh Post that the spices imported into Bangladesh belong to medium and low quality spices. There are four more qualities termed A, B, C and D, other that these medium and low quality spices. Those A to D quality spices are bought by rich countries like Saudi Arab and others while medium and low quality spices are bought by India and Bangladesh.
He said, “We import spices from India also, besides other countries. Where India itself imports low quality spices, how can we get good quality from them!” According to sources from customs department, almost 1.98 lakh tonnes spices were imported through Chattogram port during 2017-18 fiscal, which was 1.82 lakh tonnes in 2016-17 fiscal. Rest of the imported spices comes from India through different land ports.
Spices importers said the country import spices from 42 countries. Among them, Singapore, Chine, Vietnam, Guatemala, Indonesia, Pakistan, Syria, Afghanistan, Colombia, Madagascar, Malaysia and Sri Lanka are mention worthy.