Tyranny of hoarders and middlemen

Farmers, consumers feel the pinch

Vegetables and other essentials are selling at an alarmingly high price in the market as a section of unscrupulous hoarders, traders and middlemen are making undue profit from them which have worsened the daily life of the growers and commoners who have already been living in miserable condition due to the Covid-19 pandemic. 

The soaring prices of vegetables have raised concerns among the people as the market manipulation increases the vegetable prices through the in-between hands of a strong syndicate comprising hoarders, traders and business influential. These unholy cliques continue compelling the farmers to sell their products at low prices as they force the common people to buy those products at skyrocketing prices.

As a result, both the growers and consumers are being deprived of in many ways.

However, prolonged floods this year have disrupted vegetable production in most districts of the country. Due to this the prices of all kinds of vegetables go up.

In this situation, potato was the hope of low-income people as a vegetable. But the middlemen have taken advantage of this opportunity to destabilize the market for the product.

The price of potato has broken all records. Unusual prices are affecting all classes of consumers including lower and middle class. Not only the consumers are being cheated at such prices of vegetables, but also the farmers.

Market researchers said middlemen are getting more than half the price of potatoes. Farmers are being deprived of fair prices due to non-increase in stock capacity. Therefore, with the increase in production, the reserve capacity at the farmer level will have to be increased. Moreover, alternative use of potatoes in the processing industry should be increased.

Talking to farmers in the northern part of the country, it is learned that they have sold potatoes at Tk 10 to 15 per kg during the current production season. The owners and traders of the cold storage bought the potatoes, which are now being sold at the cold storage gate at a price of more than 35 Taka.

Besides, many people cannot afford to buy fish and meat as the income of the people decreases during the corona period. So, most families relied on vegetables. Now they are suffering from the price of vegetables.

One by one, the prices of all the vegetables have gone beyond the buying capacity of the consumers. There is no vegetable below 50 Taka per kg in the market now. Most of the vegetables are being sold for Tk 60 to 70 per kg.

A search of the capital's retail and wholesale markets and various districts has found that the price goes up several times to get vegetables from farmers to consumers. Farmers are being cheated the most in this process of changing hands. Vegetables are being bought from the field at a lower price and sold at almost double the price in the retail market. Consumers are also being forced to buy vegetables at that price.

Moving around several vegetable markets of the capital Dhaka, It has been seen that the prices of all vegetables are high. The prices of beans, eggplants, ripe tomatoes, carrots and green chillies have reached 100 Tk per kg. Apart from this, other vegetables are being sold at the same high prices as before.

Vegetable traders in different districts said that storms and hailstorms had hit these areas at the time of harvest. This has caused huge damage to the vegetable fields, leading to increase of prices.

But farmers said that even though the price of vegetables in the field has come down, it is increasing in the market. Farmers are facing losses due to declining yields due to rains.

Akmol Hossen, a vegetable grower from Moulvibazar, said, "Prices have gone up slightly at the farmer level this time as vegetables have been ruined due to rains. But the rise in retail prices is unusual. If the price of our produced vegetables goes up by Tk 5 in the field, it goes up to Tk 15-20 in the retail market. The entire profit goes into the pockets of the middlemen.”

According to the concerned traders, hoarders and wholesalers, there is no manipulation behind the price hike. They said it is not possible to stock vegetables as these are raw materials. They claimed that the price has gone up due to the decrease in the supply of vegetables due to rains and floods.

In this regard, Mofizul Islam, chairperson of Bangladesh Competition Commission (BCC), told the Bangladesh Post that, “The Competition Commission closely monitors any kind of monopoly and manipulation in the market for any product. In the case of vegetables, there is a kind of abnormality in the market. We will look into the matter.”