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Ramadan price hikes add to woes

Retailers under fire after unusually high increases on daily essentials for holy month

Shoppers fail to find bargains Shoppers fail to find bargains
  • ucanews.com reporter, Dhaka
  • Bangladesh
  • August 3, 2011
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The holy month of Ramadan began yesterday in predominantly Muslim Bangladesh, but crooked retailers are threatening to make it a month of misery for millions this year with unusually high price hikes on nearly all daily essentials.

The price hikes are set to add further to the woes of people already affected by power outages, water shortages, traffic jams, and high transport costs.

They also come in spite of pleas and even threats from the commerce ministry to control prices.

Virtually all stalls in markets in Dhaka are showing marked increases in what one shopper described as an unrelenting competition to bump up the prices for iftar (the evening meal that breaks the daylong fast during Ramadan).

“It’s almost impossible to buy daily food essentials. Vegetable prices have almost doubled,” said one shopper, Jafar Iqbal.

Shefali Gomes, a Catholic housewife, lamented that the massive price hikes will eat up her monthly savings.

“We won’t save anything at the end of month like other months. As we can’t live without food, we’re forced to pay extra. The government should strictly control prices, otherwise the public will suffer,” she said.

Prices are traditionally higher during Ramadan due to increased demand, but this year the hikes are especially steep. Retailers are blaming their suppliers for the increases.

“We are paying more so [consumer] prices have had to go up,” said Saiful Islam, a vegetable seller.

However, local Muslim cleric, Maolana Anwar Hossain, condemned the practice of raising prices and said it spoils the spirit of Ramadan.

“Islamic laws forbid selling items at a higher price than has been set. They [businessmen] should stop doing it and follow the spirit of Ramadan,” he said.

He also called on the government to strictly control market prices during Ramadan and use fast-track courts to harshly punish offenders during this holy season.

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