With Eid-ul-Azha around the corner, spice traders in Khatunganj, the largest wholesale market in Chattogram, are witnessing price drops and lower-than-planned sales, a situation quite unusual in other years.
As supplies of various spices have been ramped up ahead of Eid, the prices of some of these products have gone down drastically.
If this downward trend continues in the next few days, wholesalers and importers are likely to incur huge losses.
Traders of raw spices (onion, garlic and ginger) in Khatunganj said that the wholesale price of garlic has come down by at least Tk40-60 in the last two weeks. At the same time, the price of ginger has fallen by Tk20 per kg.
Chinese garlic was selling at Tk88-90 per kg in Khatunganj on Thursday, down from Tk150 two weeks ago. Similarly, Chinese ginger was selling at Tk40-50, down from Tk65-70 two days ago.
Onion prices were also on the rise last week due to a halt in imports. The price, however, started falling over the last two days on the news that the government may allow onion import before Eid. Two days ago, onions were sold at Tk50-60 per kg. In two days, the price has come down by Tk10 per kg.
Junaid-ul-Huq, the proprietor of Mrs Zarifa Enterprise, a ginger-garlic importer, said, "Garlic, which is currently being sold at Tk88 per kg, has cost Tk95 to import. The loss is about Tk2.32 lakh per container of garlic (29,000 kg) with Tk8 loss per kg."
"Similarly, ginger is selling at Tk47-50, which was imported at a cost of Tk65 per kg. So there will be a loss of more than Tk4 lakh per container (27 thousand kg)," he added.
Idris Mia, general secretary of Khatunganj's Hamidullah Market Traders Association, said, "The trade we all expected before Eid is not happening. Buyers from different districts are not coming to the market due to the floods. As a result, prices of the products are falling due to a rise in supply."
In the last two weeks, the prices of garlic and ginger, which are perishable products, have gone down significantly. If this continues, traders will be in trouble, he added.
The prices of most dried spices - turmeric, coriander, cumin, cardamom, cinnamon, black pepper and clove - have also declined in Khatunganj over the last two weeks.
Of them, the price of imported cardamom has fallen by Tk150 per kg and, at present, per kg cardamom is selling at Tk1,150.
Cloves are selling at Tk950 per kg, cumin is selling at Tk350 per kg, black pepper at Tk500 per kg, coriander at Tk90 per kg, cinnamon at Tk280 per kg, sweet cumin at Tk160 per kg and turmeric at Tk100 per kg. It is being sold for 100 rupees. All of these products have seen noticeable price drops recently.
According to the Chattogram port sources, about 50,000 tonnes of spices, worth Tk600-700 crore, are imported every year for Eid-ul-Azha- the day that marks the largest number of sacrificed animals across the country. Among the spices, all except coriander are imported from abroad.
Amar Kanti Das, senior vice-president of the Bangladesh Wholesale Hot Spices Traders Association, said, "Around 70% of the country's imported spices are sold in Khatunganj. On the occasion of Eid-ul-Azha, at least Tk500 crore worth of spices have been stockpiled in warehouses and shops of this market. But if this recession continues, traders will lose at least Tk100 crore this time."
Meanwhile, spice products are selling at higher prices in the retail market. Taking advantage of the situation, retailers are buying cheap and selling high.
Md Ilias Saudagar, the owner of a retail store in Kazir Deuri kitchen market, told The Business Standard, "We bring in small quantities of products and sell them at retail prices. Sales of spices are low. I have not even sold out the previous stock yet. The spice market is yet to be invigorated."