The price of fuel has an impact on everything.
The sharp rise in fuel oil prices, coupled with recurrent load shedding, has hit the rural economy hard, affecting the farmers, small and big businesses, transportation, fishing and poultry sectors.
Meanwhile, low and middle-income people are left on pins and needles with prices of almost all essential commodities soaring beyond their reach.
"The ongoing load shedding has already pushed down my book business. Now the fuel oil price hike dealt me a double blow," said Guljar Ahmad, owner of Poppy Library in Sylhet's Zindabazar area.
"We are facing power outages 5/6 times a day. I have been using a generator during load shedding. But that too became impossible due to excessive fuel oil prices," he said.
"My business costs have gone up drastically but the prices of books cannot be increased. You see the problem?" the bookseller said.
Echoing the same, Shanto Dev, the owner of Spicy Restaurant and Party Center in Zindabazar, said "Even if one customer is present in my eatery, I have to keep all the lights and air condition on. During load shedding, they have to be powered by generators. The cost of running generators has gone up but food prices cannot be increased suddenly. It is difficult to continue doing business like this."
About 100,000 fishermen of Noakhali's Hatia island upazila use engine-powered boats and trawlers for deep sea fishing. Diesel is used as fuel in these fishing boats and trawlers. Needless to say, these fishermen are looking at more costs.
The fuel price hike has impacted the ice and fertiliser markets too.
Ice traders said that around 80 litres of diesel are needed for the machine to make every 100 pieces of ice. It used to cost Tk6,400 of fuel previously, which now increased to Tk9,600.
Fertiliser trader Bahar Uddin said, "Before the fuel price hike, the wholesale price of urea fertiliser per 50 kg bag was Tk860, currently it is Tk1160. TSP 50 kg sack was Tk1,600, now it has increased to Tk1,800. In the retail market, urea price has increased by Tk6 to Tk26 and TSP has increased by Tk5 to Tk40 a kg.
In Naogaon, the price of all varieties of rice, including Swarna-5 (coarse rice), has gone up by Tk 4-5 per kg in the retail market over the week, putting more stress on the low-income people.
Farhad Hossain Chakdar, the general secretary of Naogaon District Rice Mill Owners' Association, said, "The cost of carrying 200 maunds of rice to market from the farmers has risen to Tk5,000 from Tk3,000. The truck fare for transporting rice to Dhaka has risen from Tk10-12,000 to Tk16-17,000."
The fuel oil prices have affected agribusiness and meat production in Lakshmipur farms.
Md Shariful Islam is running a large-scale agricultural business in Char Mansa village of Lakshmipur sadar upazila. He is the director of Fazor Ali Agro-complex. He has three poultry farms where about 30,000 chickens are reared.
According to Shariful Islam, the power goes out at least 4-5 times a day and he has to run the generator 5-7 times a day to keep the temperature bearable for poultry. After the fuel price hike, his daily expenditure increased by around Tk10,000.
Abdul Baten Bhuiyan, the owner of Bhuiyan Traders – a fertiliser, seed and pesticide dealer in Torabganj market of Kamalnagar upazila in Lakshmipur, said, "The fuel price hike put farmers in sore distress. At a time of Aman cultivation, tractor drivers have hiked their fares, and the cost of irrigation has gone up."
Economic analyst Professor Anwarul Qadir said, "At present, the inflation rate is higher in villages than in cities in our country. The load shedding, along with increased fuel prices, will further increase the rate of inflation in the rural economy."
"Agriculture is the biggest part of the rural economy. Fuel oil is required for various works including irrigation. As farmers are not being subsidised now, the price of food crops and other agricultural products will rise," he said.
Hanif Ali, a farmer of Gutudia village of Dumuria upazila of Khulna, said, "The croplands should be irrigated regularly for paddy plantation. Irrigation with diesel-powered engines has just gotten more difficult because of high prices. Often we irrigate with electric motors but that too is not possible due to terrible load shedding."
Cumilla's popular mobile markets for curries, fruits, vegetables and other commodities have also seen a collapse in sales.
Mosharraf Hossain, who sells fruits on sidewalks in Cumilla city, said, "The fuel price hike has affected the prices of everything. People have reduced the consumption of fruits. I used to sell fruits for an average of Tk4,000 per day, which now declined to Tk2,000. Transport costs have increased so much that I can no longer sustain this business."
The production in the factories of Brahmanbaria BSCIC Industrial City has dropped by about 60% due to load shedding and fuel price hike.
Rice mill owner Arju Mia of Panishwar village of Sarail upazila of Brahmanbaria said, "Due to load shedding, rice mills are now taking two to three days to break the paddy, with an average loss of Tk10-12,000 per day."
Ayub Ali, a farmer from Bhimpur village in Naogaon sadar upazila, said that the government should do something to save the farmer. "If the farmer does not survive, the country will not survive," he said.
More than 100 small and medium industrial factories have been established in Bogura Bangladesh Small and Cottage Industries Corporation (BSCIC) area.
AKM Mahfuzur Rahman, deputy general manager of this organisation, said, "BSCIC runs large electric motors. In the absence of electricity, a huge amount of diesel is required to run these motors through generators. Many factories have been temporarily closed, reducing the production of Bogura BSCIC by at least 20%."
The prices of different varieties of paddy and rice increased by about Tk100 per maund and about Tk100-Tk150 per maund respectively in Ashuganj of Brahmanbaria, the largest paddy market in the eastern region of the country, in a week due to the unusual fuel price hike.
In addition to small and large industrial factories, local businesses have been directly affected by the prices of daily necessities. The kitchen market and even the medical service sector have been hit hard.
Obaidur Rahman Abhi, the president of Savar City Centre Shop Owners' Association and Traders Welfare Association, told The Business Standard, "First there is regular power outages, then the market has to be closed by 8 pm. If you add the additional fuel cost, then I don't have to say anything. It is pretty clear how we are doing."
The recurrent load shedding has affected various local private hospitals, diagnostic centres and health care centres.
Aminur Rahman, president of Savar Private Hospital Owners' Association and owner of Prime Hospital, told TBS, "On average, we are experiencing load shedding for 3-4 hours every day. It is consuming at least 200 litres of diesel per day in my establishment alone to run the generator, and the situation is the same for everyone else. Our daily cost is skyrocketing, and we may have no choice but to increase the service charges."
According to the farmers of Dinajpur, around 2.5-3 litres of fuel oil is required for one salo machine to irrigate one bigha (48 decimals) of land. After the price hike, farmers have to pay Tk102 more than before for irrigation.
On the one hand, the cost of cultivation has increased and on the other, the cost of producing rice from paddy has also increased, they said.
Zarina Begum of Dakshin Balua Danga area, who came to buy rice at Bahadur Bazar of Dinajpur city, said, "Poor people like me are in the most trouble. The price of rice is jumping every day. A sack of rice that cost Tk3,200 a few days ago now costs Tk3,400. I used to buy one sack at a time, but now I will buy half a sack."
[Our district correspondents contributed to this story]