If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito, Dalai Lama once said.
This quote best sums up the power of the insect: the need for combating it has spawned a Tk 1,600 crore market in Bangladesh.
And thanks to the city corporations’ inadequacy in checking the mosquito population, the market for the insect’s repellent is ever expanding.
In 2019, Bangladeshi consumers spent 18 per cent more on mosquito repellents from a year earlier, as the fear of catching diseases like dengue and chikungunya that are borne by the insect gripped the nation. This also created scope for manufacturers to hike the prices.
Last year, the overall mosquito repellent market, comprising aerosol, smoke coil and vaporiser, stood at Tk 1,579.5 crore, which was Tk 1,336.3 crore and Tk 1,061 crore previously, according to market insiders.
Apart from these, people also bought mosquito repellent creams and spray like Purnava, Odomos and Goodknight along with anti-mosquito rackets. But, the market size of the products is not substantial yet.
Apart from the private market, Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC) and Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC) procured medicine worth Tk 31.39 crore in the fiscal 2018-19.
And yet, Amirul Islam, a grocery shop keeper of Jatrabari, has to use smoke coils every day even in broad daylight to fend off mosquitoes and the diseases they come bearing.
“This is all because of city corporations’ apathy towards controlling the insect’s population.”
The grocer barely used coils in the past because the fright of dengue and chikungunya was rare.
A total of 101,354 dengue cases were reported last year, of which 49,544 were outside Dhaka, according to the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS). The number of deaths was 156.
According to experts, there is a huge risk of dengue outbreak this year as authorities concerned have failed to take any visible effective measure so far to control Aedes mosquito, the vector, outside Dhaka.
“Since mosquito disturbance is escalating, so are the use of coils, aerosols and vaporisers,” said Syed Alamgir, managing director of ACI Consumer Brands, which markets ACI Aerosol.
People are using coils in a larger extent than other products though some coil brands may have health concerns.
“But aerosol is safer,” he said.
Smoke coils accounted for 88 per cent of the market for mosquito controlling products last year, according to data from industry insiders.
Aerosol and vaporisers are usable only in closed rooms, but coils can be used in open places too to ward off mosquitoes, said the top ACI Consumer Brands official.
“That is why many people use coils,” Alamgir added.
Istiaque Nahid, senior brand manager of Quazi Enterprises, which markets the Eagle brand of mosquito coil, acknowledged the health concerns.
Some mosquito coil makers are not maintaining the standard of active ingredient use set by the Bangladesh Standards and Testing Institution.
“These cause more long-term harm than the mosquito-borne diseases themselves, so people should be careful about their choice of coil brands.” Excessive use of toxic ingredients may cause asthma and problems for pregnant women. “It may even lead to cancer,” he said.
“The mosquito-borne diseases are rising at an incremental rate and it was a much talked-about issue nationally.”
Since it is a low-cost solution to combating mosquitoes, most people opt for smoke coils, disregarding the latent health risks, Nahid added.
The price of a pack of 10 smoke coils starts at Tk 30 and goes up to Tk 85.
Aerosol prices start at Tk 170 and go up to Tk 450, while a vaporiser refill starts at around the Tk 100-mark.
The market for vaporiser in Bangladesh will expand in future though it is still low in comparison to other two mainstream forms of mosquito repellents, said an official of Godrej Bangladesh requesting anonymity.
Godrej, Indian fast-moving consumer brand, has cornered the market for vaporisers: its brand Goodknight has 97 per cent of the market.
But, he believes mosquito repellent ointments and sprays, which are applied on one’s body, like Purnava and Odomos have “huge” potential.
“Because, school going and office going people will need such solutions,” he said, adding that there was a huge crisis of such products last year during the hot and humid season when mosquito phobia hit an elevated level.
At that time, Odomos was sold out in most of the shops in Dhaka. Not just that, shops were selling the product with at least a 30 per cent mark-up although the product’s face value remained the same.
“But the high prices did not deter the consumers from buying it. That’s how desperate they were,” he added.
Islam, the shopkeeper at Jatrabari, said the prices of smoke coils did not increase to that extent then, but those of aerosols and vaporisers edged up 8 to 15 per cent.
However, mosquito control product makers said their price hike was just yearly inflation adjustment though the inflation rate was below 7 percent.
“People are still not cautious about mosquitoes. When a news comes out that dengue patients are dying they start using repellents,” said Adib Al Ibrahim, product manager of Purnava, who makes a spray that has the same effect as Odomos.
Purnava failed to meet the surge in demand that ensued in the months of July and August last year, he said.
“People should be cautious about mosquito repellents because some of them are not good for health,” Ibrahim said, adding that some personal repellents can cause skin diseases.
The best solution for all would be if the city corporations procure effective repellents to destroy mosquito larvae.
In fiscal 2019-20, DSCC was allocated Tk 43.30 crore for mosquito control, up 56.03 per cent from a year earlier. DNCC was given Tk 49.3 crore, almost thrice the budget from fiscal 2018-19.