The campaign to ramp up measures against rip-offs and artificially inflated prices comes ahead of the Chinese New Year, which begins next Tuesday (Feb 1) ‒ a time of year when many ethnic Chinese Phuket natives buy fresh fruit to place on altars as offerings and blessings.
Vice Governor Pichet Panapong, along with Commerce Chief Woranit Aphiratjirawong, led an inspection of Suksamran Market in Chalong yesterday Jan 26).
The products that were checked for pricing and quantity yesterday were pork, fresh chicken, vegetables, fruits, consumer products and other items for sale..
“These items are products that consumers need a lot to pay homage to numerous gods during the Chinese New Year and the government is concerned about the impact on people’s cost of living,” Vice Governor Pichet said.
“We need to protect consumers from being exploited in their purchases, as well as to follow the Phuket policy of taking care of the cost of living, so we have to check these goods,” he added.
Operators at the market yesterday were found to be cooperating with legal requirements to display prices clearly, and charging the prices that were displayed, said a report by the Phuket office of the Public Relations (PR Phuket).
“And no non-standard scales were found at the market,” the report added.
Phuket Commerce officers in recent weeks have also been inspecting wholesalers and retailers of fresh produce to guard against price gouging and hoarding supplies in order to inflate prices.
Prices continuing to increase was blamed on rising production costs combined with insufficient supply to meet demand, the PR Phuket report said.
However, vendors at the market said economic conditions had slowed sales. Where regular customers previously bought two or three items of the same type, they were now more conscious of their spending and buying just one, one vendor explained.
One pork vendor said that few customers were coming to buy from the market during this time. “The majority of them are loyal customers but now purchase in smaller quantities,” she said.
“Previously, I sold two pigs a day. Now I order one per day. I still can’t sell all of it because the price of pigs during this period is quite expensive, according to the prices at the farm,” the vendor added.
“Small traders have to sell at the market price. If we sell at prices any cheaper we lose,” she said.
Another vendor explained that although Chinese New Year is usually an annual boon for sales of fruits and vegetables, this year sales were suffering.
“Prices have increased due to Chinese New Year approaching, but during this time people come to buy only the necessary goods they need,” she said.
The pork vendor urged the responsible agencies to solve the problems of rising prices at the source, “because us small traders are considered the end of the line”.
The vendor’s comment alluded to the government’s policy to use controlled prices for force vendors to the public to sell goods at prices set by the government, not the market. Meanwhile, all other operators, from producers through wholesalers and fresh produce logistics companies, are still enjoying full profits.
The central government has received similar criticism in recent weeks, and is starting to regulate operators other than end-of-the-line small vendors.
The Cabinet last week expanded its list of goods regulated by controlled prices to 51 items and five services (56 in total), noted a report by the Public Relations Department.
Following the fast rise in red pork prices, the Cabinet also began regulating chicken meat.
Chicken raisers with a capacity of 100,000 or more and slaughterhouses with a production capacity of more than 4,000 chickens per day must report to officials the quantity, stock and cost of selling every month. Animal feed factories, of which there are 55 registered plants, must inform the cost of selling price. production and stock quantity.
“Any product price adjustments must obtain permission from the Department of Internal Trade first. At present, the Ministry of Commerce has announced a list of regulated goods and services, totaling 56 items, of which 51 items are 5 services (from 51 items),” the report noted.
The goods and products currently under government controls include eggs, garlic, durian, milk powder, ready-to-eat liquid milk products, cooking oil, mangosteen, longan, pork, onion, food in sealed containers, fertilizers, insecticides, animal feed, Liquefied Petroleum Gas (and) and other fuels, car and motorcycle tyres, medicine, medical supplies, PVC pipe, cement, electrical wires and structural steel, rice, wheat, barley, corn, oil palm fruit, mature coconut and its products, rubber, toilet paper, shampoo, soap, detergent, school uniforms, diapers and sanitary napkins.
The government is also focussing on agreements with key trade associations and operators, the report also noted.
“For the situation of some products with higher price adjustments The government and all relevant sectors have taken steps to maintain the price level in a way that balances the prices of agricultural commodities in order to generate more income for farmers, but the increased product price must not affect the lives of the people,” said the report.
“the Ministry of Commerce and Department of Internal Trade has coordinated with manufacturers, entrepreneurs, traders and associations to prices fixed in many categories of products related to daily life, such as electrical appliances, seasoning sauces, instant noodles, soft drinks.
“In addition, the National Swine Raisers Association announced to freeze the price of live pigs at B110 per kilogram until the end of the Chinese New Year and the Egg Raising and Exporting Association is ready to cooperate to fix the price of chicken eggs Number 3 at B2.90 per egg, etc,” the report continued.
“At the same time, prices of pork, chicken eggs and vegetables such as kale, Chinese morning glory, cabbage, lentils, according to the Agricultural Commodity Situation report last week (17-24 January 2022) remained stable,” it added.
“In this regard, the Prime Minister insists that he will take all steps to take care of the people’s brothers and sisters. Some measures may take time to see results. For example, there are many measures for expensive pork, such as asking to refrain from exporting live pigs for three months, providing assistance to farmers with the price of animal feed and financial institutions providing special loans for farmers,” the report noted.