Sajjadur, a wholesaler in Karwan Bazar, was selling a 'palla' (unit of 5 kg) of eggplant for Tk220-250. A stone's throw away at the market next to the rail gate, these eggplants were being sold at Tk80 per kg. The Tk30-35 was startling, considering the distance between the two markets.
The distance between wholesale and retail markets at Karwan Bazar is a two-minute walk, but prices differ widely as in other areas of the city.
While eggplants are being sold at Tk45-50 per kg in the wholesale vegetable market of Mirpur Shah Ali Market, the price reaches Tk80 as soon as the same eggplant reaches the retail market in Mirpur-1. The distance between the two places is around a little more than half-a-kilometre or Tk30 in rickshaw fare.
The same vegetable is priced at only Tk30 a kg at farmers' market in Paba of Rajshahi, one of the major sources of greengroceries for capital Dhaka.
Between farm and kitchen, eggplant gains Tk50 per kg, and both the grower and end consumer are deprived of fair price of the vegetable, much consumed during Ramadan for iftar.
This is true for other farm products as well.
Retailers are at the end of a market chain that reaps what farmers row and makes shopping a nightmare for fixed-income people like Habibur Rahman.
During visits to the two wholesale and 12 retail markets in Dhaka in March and April, it was seen that the price of vegetables almost doubled from one part of the supply chain to the next. Interestingly, when the price goes up, the hike is reflected in all the markets. But when the price falls, it takes time for individual markets to adjust to the decrease.
Asked about the glaring price discrepancies, retailers and wholesalers in Dhaka chalked it down to the role of middlemen, adjusting for the risk of perishable goods and the various types of expenses incurred.
It could also be seen that the farmers were not earning as much as the middlemen. It is estimated that only 36.5% of the price of a vegetable goes to the farmers.
For example, farmers were selling brinjals for Tk10-12 a month ago, but when those got to Dhaka they were sold at Tk60.
Asked why the price of brinjal was so high, Habibur Rahman, a retailer in Karwan Bazar, told The Business Standard that the cost of running a shop had increased. More money went towards paying rent, electricity bills, market committee expenses and the around Tk600 charges for the lineman, who are usually the beat police.
Mostafa Kamal, a shop owner, said, "There are various expenses incurred during transportation of goods, alongside the usual costs. That's why there are differences in the price."
But vegetables aren't the only goods experiencing a price hike.
A month ago, broiler chickens were sold at different markets in Dhaka for Tk150-155. Two days before the start of Ramadan, the price of broiler chicken rose to Tk160-180 in almost all the retail markets, including Rampura, Segunbagicha, Farmgate, Mirpur, Hatirpul, Newmarket and Town Hall.
Within a week of the start of Ramadan, the price of chicken had again fallen to Tk150. Although the prices came down in different markets, including Rampura, Karwan Bazar, Mirpur and Kachukhet, some other markets retained the earlier higher price.
Shariful Islam, a chicken seller in Hatirpul, said, "The demand for chicken is high during Ramadan as the price of beef is very high. However, supply is relatively low. That's why prices go up."
Citing examples of price reductions in other markets, he said, "If they start decreasing the price, we will also reduce it. But for this, low grade products have to enter the market."
Habibur Rahman, a private employee who came to the Hatirpool market, told TBS that everyone knew the price was high in the market. "If I find out that the price of chicken is Tk150, but it is being sold for Tk180 here, I will try to buy it from elsewhere."
Similarly, before the month of May, the price of beef in all markets was Tk600-620, which was Tk700 before Ramadan. While it is now being sold for Tk650 in other places, in the Segunbagicha market it was still Tk700.
Director General of the Department of Agricultural Marketing A Gaffar Khan told TBS, "There has been a tendency among traders to make extra profit for a long time. We are working to break that. This can be reduced if there is a supply of real time information."
He further added that the price difference could be further reduced if the supply chain was fixed by reducing the high rent retailers faced.