Got eggs? Prices for protein-rich foods shoot up, squeeze Bangladeshi pocketbooks

Reyad Hossain
Got eggs? Prices for protein-rich foods shoot up, squeeze Bangladeshi pocketbooks A man buys eggs at the Shantinagar Bazar in Dhaka, Aug. 11, 2023.

Rahima Akter says inflation has hit so hard she struggles to pay for fish or chicken and can no longer afford eggs because of a spike in prices.

The mother of two said her monthly salary as a worker at a garment factory near Dhaka was about 9,400 taka (U.S. $86), and she was having a difficult time buying proteins and other staples to feed her family.

“The price of four eggs in the shop was 56 taka (51 cents) five days ago,” she told BenarNews on Friday. Since then, prices have climbed another three taka.

“Now I am not even able to buy eggs,” she said. “I hardly go to the fish market. Now we have to manage somehow with Bhaji Bharta [potatoes and other vegetables].”

Rahima’s daughter likes fish, but even one of the cheapest catches is cutting into her monthly budget.

“I went to the market and bought a pangas fish, which cost me more than 218 taka ($2).”

Merchants and customers in Dhaka and throughout the nation said prices are climbing for domestic onions, broiler chickens and potatoes by 10% to 25% as well.

“This is the highest price of eggs in the history of Bangladesh,” S.M. Nazer Hossain, vice president of the Consumer Association of Bangladesh, told BenarNews.

“It is said that the production is low while demand is high, but this situation did not happen suddenly. Why did the price suddenly increase so much?,” he asked.

It is difficult to identify the exact cause of the spikes in food prices because the government does not have a proper monitoring system, said M. Masrur Reaz, chairman at the Policy Exchange Bangladesh, an NGO.  

“There is no real information about supply and demand. Besides, some inputs including raw materials, intermediary goods and medicines of the poultry industry are import dependent,” he told BenarNews on Monday.

“However, import restrictions are going on due to the U.S. dollar shortage and local currency’s significant devaluation – the price of imports has increased. Some local reasons include transportation costs and wage hikes as possibly being liable for the egg-price hike.”

Still, the price hike isn’t logical, he said.

In a statement published by local Bangladesh media last week, a former lead economist for the World Bank office in Dhaka blamed market manipulation for the higher food prices.

“[T]he markets for many of our products like sugar, edible oil, even rice are controlled by a handful of massive companies. They are using this power whenever they can, so even during harvest season the price of rice is going up; this is nothing but manipulation because during harvest, demand does not go up by a lot,” The Business Standard quoted Zahid Hussain as saying.

Sellers and buyers discuss chicken prices at the Hatirpool Bazar in Dhaka, Aug. 11, 2023. [BenarNews]

Tipu Munsh, the country’s commerce minister, said the government was working to reduce people’s hardship from higher food prices.

“Food products are being sold at low prices through TCB. Oil, pulses (beans) and rice and other commodities are being provided to one crore [10 million] family cardholders across the country. The government has stood by the poor and helpless people by giving huge subsidies,” he told reporters, using an acronym for the government’s Trading Corp. of Bangladesh.

Still, he could not promise prices would return to normal levels.

“The price of eggs, chicken, onion or green chilies is not related to the Ministry of Commerce,” he said.

Munshi said imports of proteins could be allowed if his ministry got approval from the Fish and Livestock Ministry.

The Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS) latest annual figures released in July showed that inflation across the nation increased by about 10%.

The government has started monitoring increases in egg prices.

“Some people must be behind this manipulation,” said A.H.M. Shafiquzzaman, director general of the government-run National Consumer Rights Protection Directorate.

Directorate officials began monitoring efforts on Thursday to prevent price spikes.

On Friday, “raids were conducted in various areas throughout the day,” Shafiquzzaman said, adding that a wholesaler had been fined for “irregularities.”

The market price for eggs is updated regularly on the TCB website. 

The price for a dozen was listed at 167.5 taka ($1.53) on Friday, a 10% hike from one month earlier. A salesman in the Ibrahimpur Bazar in Dhaka said the prices were actually higher – 177.3 taka ($1.62) per dozen – on Friday.

A man purchases fresh vegetables at the Hatirpool Bazar, Aug. 11, 2023. [BenarNews]

The Bangladesh Poultry Association (BPA), an association of small poultry producers, said egg prices could climb even more if the corporate syndicate controlling much of the market is not broken.

“Supply shortages are affecting the market and since there is no government supervision of corporate business in this sector, their dominance in the poultry industry has increased, which the people are paying for,” BPA President Sumon Howlader said in a statement sent to the media.

Mahbubur Rahman, general secretary of Breeders Association Bangladesh, denied the allegation regarding large companies’ profits.

“We (breeders farm) also agree that the current price is not logical. We are not liable for that, middlemen may be driving up prices,” he told BenarNews.

In the southern district of Lakshmipur, meanwhile, a man said his family was unable to make ends meet.

“For about two years, I could manage somehow on 12,150 taka ($111) a month in my village. At that time my wife’s income allowed us to save some money,” Abid Hossain told BenarNews.

“Now our monthly expenses soared to almost more than double. I can’t understand where the money goes,” said Abid, a local sales representative for an electronics company. “I can’t even buy some useful things for my kids.”


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