Baby food prices continue to rise as households struggle to meet increased daily expenses, particularly due to rising prices of essential foodstuffs.
Retailers in the capital’s Karwanbazar and Hatirpool markets told New Age that baby food prices had risen by more than 20% in total in four phases over the past two years following the outbreak of the Covid pandemic.
“Some vendors have said that there will be a further rise in the price of the item,” Bhai Bhai store owner Zahirul Islam said at Hatirpool Market.
He further said that all brands of milk have become more expensive while the price of eggs, also a crucial food for children, has risen.
Jewel Rana, father of a two-and-a-half-year-old baby girl, living in Mirpur, said he was forced to buy less baby food than needed because he could not afford when the prices of other products also continued to increase.
Traders said wholesalers blamed importers for the price hike.
“We have not increased the price. We just get 5-10 Tk from selling the item,” said Parvej Hasan, a shop owner at the capital’s Karwanbazar.
He said a pasteurized milk company on Monday raised the price of its product from Tk 70 to Tk 80 per kilogram.
The president of the Infant and Young Child Nutrition Association of Bangladesh, Iftakher Rashid, said prices for all commodities had gone up, along with baby food prices.
“Baby food prices could rise again due to high inflation and rising dollar prices,” he said.
Iftakher explained that essential baby food was very expensive in Bangladesh, as importers had to spend around 90% more on miscellaneous charges than their base import cost.
After the Covid outbreak, he said, the import-driven baby food industry was facing an acute supply crisis due to rising import spending.
Bangladesh Consumers Association Chairman Ghulam Rahman said baby food was a crucial item which should be affordable and its quality should also be strictly controlled, adding: “But unfortunately the prices of these products suddenly increased”.
“The government should check whether businessmen are involved in unethical practices,” he said.
He also called on the government to make the price affordable, even giving tax relief if needed.
According to a law enacted in 2013, registration with the Institute of Public Health Nutrition is mandatory for the marketing of any baby food in Bangladesh.
A junior clinician at IPHN, Dr Murad Md Shamsher Tabris Khan, told New Age that they do not regulate baby food prices, but control unethical and aggressive marketing of any brand.
He suggested taking care of mothers so that breastfeeding is sufficient for children, as breast milk is the safest and most nutritious food for babies.
“In many cases, babies don’t need extra food, but parents provide it,” he added, advising people to stop such practices.
Officials said license applications had been filed to market 114 baby food products and only more than 50 items with permission, while eight applications had been denied.
Karwanbazar wholesaler Mamunur Rashid said a 400g tin container of Nan Opti Pro baby food now sells for 700 Tk, up from 675 Tk a few months ago, Lactogen 2.5 kg now 2,650 , i.e. 2,400 Tk, Diploma 1 kg now 790 Tk, i.e. Tk 550, Nido 1.5 kg Tk 2,900 i.e. Tk 2,750 and Cerelac 350 g Tk 450 i.e. Tk 380.
He said not only baby food, but also soap, nappies and other hygiene items for them have seen their prices rise again.
Ashraful Isam, a father of two babies living in Mohammadpur, said he was helpless to provide food for his sons.
He said he sometimes offered them alternatives to their usual diet, which they didn’t like.
“I had to compromise on baby food as well as nutrition,” he said.
He said baby food prices had quadrupled since the outbreak of the Covid pandemic in March 2020.
The mother of a 14-month-old baby, Shamsun Nahar, said she had to give her daughter extra food because of her physical problem, but it became difficult for her because of the exorbitant prices.
“My husband, who earns Tk 30,000 a month, is the only earner in my family of four. I no longer have the ability to cut expenses from anywhere,” she said.
According to traders, some five manufacturers supply almost all 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 industry insiders, the government does not provide any subsidies or additional facilities to importers of essential food items and hence importers set the price competitively.
Prices for baby food on the world market have risen by 30%, they said.
The founding executive director of the Conscious Consumers Society, Palash Mahmud, said the government should first find out the reason for the price hike.
If business entities raised the price unreasonably, then they should be banked, he said, adding, “If the price hike is reasonable, then the government should provide a subsidy to the next generation.” .