Dhaka's residents are still paying higher for seasonal vegetables despite a significant decline in prices at growers' level at the beginning of full harvest time.
Prices of some vegetables slightly fell in city kitchen markets last week but are still 80-400 per cent higher than that of farmers' end, according to official data.
Market observers said a huge price gap between growers' level and Dhaka's retail markets is depriving consumers of buying seasonal crops at rational rates.
Middlemen are gobbling most benefits, they added.
Data available with the Department of Agricultural Marketing (DAM) shows prices of 15 winter vegetables in Dhaka are 80-400 per cent higher than that of growers' level.
Cauliflower and cabbage sold at Tk 35-45 apiece, brinjal at Tk 40-55 a kg, bean at Tk 40-60 a kg, radish at Tk 25-35 a kg and bottle gourd at Tk 40-60 apiece.
Pointed gourd, okra, bitter gourd and snake gourd retailed at Tk 45-60 a kg, coriander leaf at Tk 150-180 a kg, leafy at Tk 10-25 a bunch, according to DAM.
Early variety of tomato has hit market but prices were much higher at Tk 130-140 a kg on Thursday. Imported tomato was traded at Tk 100-120 a kg.
Carrot of imported Chinese varieties was selling at Tk 80-100 a kg as local produce is yet to hit the market.
DAM asst director Touhid Md Rashed Khan said cauliflower sells at Tk 8.0-14 apiece at Rangpur and Bogura farm level which is being wholesaled at Tk 18-25 at Karwanbazar.
The vegetable retails at Tk 35-45 in Dhaka's markets.
Country bean is selling at Tk 8.0-18 a kg in Jashore and Khulna which is being wholesaled a Tk 20-40 a kg in Dhaka and it retailed at Tk 40-60.
Mr Khan said radish is selling at Tk 4.0-6.0 a kg in Rangpur which is traded at Tk 12-16 a kg in Dhaka's wholesale outlets and it retails at Tk 25-35 a kg.
A bunch of spinach is selling at Tk 1.5-2.0 in Tangail which is selling at Tk 10-15 in Dhaka, he added.
DAM director general Mohammad Yousuf said middlemen are eating up most of the benefits, simply depriving both farmers and consumers of fair prices.
"We're going to make an initiative to fix maximum prices of 23 to 25 items from farm level to retail level to ensure checks and balances."
Mr Yusuf said DAM monitors prices of farm produce on a regular basis for wholesale and retail outlets.
"In the coming months, we'll take necessary steps so that traders follow fixed rates," he stated.
Department of Agriculture Extension officials said they are expecting 14.5-million tonnes of vegetables this winter season from 0.58-million hectares of land.
Moshiur Rahman, a Rayerbazar-based trader, said vegetable prices are higher this year for five spells of flooding, causing inundation in many areas.
Transport cost of vegetables has also increased notably in a year by Tk 2.0-3.0 per kg, he told the FE.
He said extortion on highways in the name of transport workers' welfare associations has also caused a surge in prices by a minimum of Tk 2.0 a kg.
Besides, the price gap between wholesale and retail is also much higher, ultimately hurting consumers, Mr Rahman mentioned.
Consumers Association of Bangladesh secretary Humyaun Kabir Bhuiyan said high prices of rice, vegetable, potato, edible oil, egg and others are affecting daily food intake of the poor.
DAM and commerce ministry should team up to strictly monitor market to minimise price gap between farmers' level and consumers' end to ensure nutrient of low-income people, he cited.
However, prices of potato declined to some extent last week as the newly harvested tuber was traded at Tk 70-80 a kg and stored potato at Tk 45-55 a kg.
Most other essential kitchen prices remained almost same, maintaining their previous highs.