Although the demand for new banknotes increases significantly ahead of Eids, this year the business is dull as fewer people are coming out because of the coronavirus outbreak and the subsequent government-announced shutdown.
Traders said the demand for freshly printed notes skyrockets during festivals but the pandemic has turned things upside down this year. They said new banknotes worth about several million taka are being traded daily in the city’s footpath ahead of the biggest religious festival of the Muslims.
New notes are usually given as gifts (commonly known as ‘Eidi’ or ‘Salami’) to younger people on occasion of Eid.
Bangladesh Bank has set a target to release new currency notes of Tk 25,000 crore in the market before the Eid, which will be celebrated on Monday.
In Gulistan and Motijheel, traders set up makeshift tents besides roads to exchange fresh notes. Only a handful of people were seen exchanging money.
Banknotes of Tk 10, Tk 20 and Tk 50 are sold at higher prices at these illegal markets as they have more demand among customers.
Abul Kalam Azad, a trader, told UNB that business is down this year compared to previous years as people cannot come out of their homes during the coronavirus outbreak.
“We have a lot of customers every year but this year is different,” he said, noting that some aren’t coming out of their houses due to lockdown and many people have lost their sources of income.
“How will buy new notes for their kids? People are not doing well in the shutdown,” he said adding that profit is very low this year.
“I exchange new notes of Tk 5, Tk 10, Tk 20, Tk 50, Tk 100, Tk 200 and Tk 500 for some profit. I’m charging Tk 50 to Tk 100 per thousand for new notes this year. We profited more in previous years,” he said.
Tk 200 note is in high demand, Kalam said.
The central bank launched a regular currency note of Tk 200 denomination and commemorative gold and silver coins worth Tk 100 on the occasion of the birth centenary of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman on March 17.
Raisul Bari, a resident of Old Dhaka, said he had no time to stand in a queue for fresh notes in banks and instead went to Gulistan.
“The vendors are charging higher than in normal time as demand for fresh notes remains high during Eids,” he added.
Raisul said he bought two bundles of Tk 20 and Tk 50 notes for his dearest one.
“I purchase new notes every year before the Eid. Children love to get fresh notes as Eid tips from their elders – which is an age-old custom in the country,” he said.