News Desk: Baby food prices continue to rise as households are struggling to cope with the growing everyday expenses, particularly because of rising prices of essential food items.
Retailers at the capital’s Karwanbazar and Hatirpool markets told that the prices of baby foods had increased by more than 20 per cent overall in four phases over the past two years after the Covid pandemic broke out.
‘Some suppliers have said that there will be further rise in the price of the item,’ said Bhai Bhai store proprietor Zahirul Islam at Hatirpool market.
He further said that all brands of milk had become costlier while the price of eggs, also a crucial food item for children, has increased.
Jewel Rana, father of a two and a half year old baby girl, living in Mirpur, said that he was compelled to buy less baby food than needed as he couldn’t afford when prices of other commodities also continued to increase.
Shopkeepers said that wholesalers blamed importers for the price hike.
‘We did not increase the price. We just get between Tk 5 to Tk 10 on selling the item,’ said Parvej Hasan, a shop owner at the capital’s Karwanbazar.
He said that a pasteurised milk company on Monday increased the price of its product from Tk 70 to Tk 80 per kilogram.
Infant and Young Children Nutrition Association of Bangladesh president Iftakher Rashid said that as the prices of all products had increased so had the prices of baby food.
‘Baby food prices might increase again due to the high inflation and dollar price hike,’ he said.
Iftakher explained that the essential baby food was very expensive in Bangladesh as the importers had to spend some 90 per cent more money in various costs than its basic import cost.
After the Covid outbreak, he said, the import-oriented baby food business was facing an acute supply crisis because of import expense hike.
Consumers Association of Bangladesh president Ghulam Rahman said that baby food was a crucial item that should be affordable and its quality should also be controlled strictly, adding, ‘But unfortunately, the prices of such products have increased suddenly.’
‘The government should check whether businesspeople are involved in unethical practices,’ he said.
He also asked the government to make the price affordable even by giving tax rebate if needed.
According to a law enacted in 2013, registration with the Institute of Public Health Nutrition is mandatory for marketing any baby food item in Bangladesh.
An IPHN junior clinician, Dr Murad Md Shamsher Tabris Khan, told that they did not regulate the prices of baby food but controlled unethical and aggressive marketing of any brand.
He suggested taking proper care of mothers so that breastfeeding could be enough for children as breast milk is the safest and most nutritious food for babies.
‘In many cases, additional food is not needed for babies but parents provide it,’ he added, advising to stop such practices.
Officials said that applications were made for licences to market 114 baby food items and only over 50 items gtt the permission while eight petitions were rejected.
Karwanbazar wholesaler Mamunur Rashid said that a 400gm tin container of Nan Opti Pro baby food now sold for Tk 700, which was Tk 675 a few months back, Lactogen 2.5kg now 2,650, which was Tk 2,400, Diploma 1kg now Tk 790, which was Tk 550, Nido 1.5kg Tk 2,900 which was Tk 2,750 and Cerelac 350gm Tk 450, which was Tk 380.
He said that not only baby food items but also soap, diapers and other hygiene items for them saw rise in their prices again.
Ashraful Isam, a father of two babies living in Mohammadpur, said that he was helpless to ensure food for his sons.
He said that he was sometimes offering them alternatives to their regular food, which they hardly liked.
‘I had to compromise on baby food as well as nutrition,’ he said.
He said that the prices of baby food items had increased four times since the Covid pandemic broke out in March 2020.
The mother of a 14-month-old baby, Shamsun Nahar, said that she had to give additional food to her daughter due to her physical problem but it had now become challenging for her because of the exorbitant prices.
‘My husband, who earns Tk 30,000 monthly, is the only earning person of my four-member family. I have no option to cut expenses from anywhere anymore,’ she said.
According to shopkeepers, some five manufacturers supply almost all the baby food in Bangladesh.
New Zealand Dairy markets the Diploma, Red Cow and Farm Land brands, Nestle Bangladesh Cerelac, Lactogen, Nido Nan, Abul Khair Group Star Ship, Marks and Grow Up and Arla Foods Bangladesh markets Dano.
According to sector insiders, the government provides no subsidy or additional facilities to the essential food importers and as a result the importers fix the price in a competitive manner.
Baby food prices on the global market have increased by 30 per cent, they said.
Conscious Consumers Society founding executive director Palash Mahmud said that the government should find the rationale for the price hike first of all.
If business entities have hiked the price unreasonably, then they should be brought to book, he said, adding, ‘If the price hike is reasonable, then the government should provide subsidy for the next generation.’