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Markets question food price increases by vendors

Update: August, 18/2012 - 09:20

HCM CITY — Tran Thi Kim Hong, a 45-year-old resident of District 4, frequently travels nearly 15km to the Thu Duc wholesale market to buy food items and vegetables instead of getting them at the traditional retail market near her house.

"The price of food at the Thu Duc wholesale market is so much cheaper than traditional retail markets in the city," Hong said.

Hong is among many housewives and consumers in the city who are being pushed to shop elsewhere by the high prices at traditional retail markets, which they say are more expensive than supermarkets as well.

In fact, the intriguing aspect of rising prices at traditional retail markets is that the prices of fresh food at wholesale markets and supermarkets have been falling.

This is the case despite the fact that retail prices of petrol, often a catalyst for prices of other goods, have increased three times within the last three weeks.

On August 15, the price of many vegetables at the Thu Duc wholesale market was lower by VND500-VND2,000 per kilo compared to the previous week.

For instance, the price of gourd and pumpkin, for instance was VND3,000 per kilo (down VND500-1,000), tomato was sold at VND6,500 per kilo (down VND2,000), cucumber, VND3,500-4,000 per kilo (down VND1,000) and kohlrabi VND1,000-2,000 per kilo (down VND1,500-2,000).

Nguyen Thanh Ha, deputy director of the Thu Duc market, said the main reason for the decrease in prices of many foods at the market was that the volume of products coming into the market was increasing, exceeding 3,200 tonnes per day.

While the supply was high, the purchasing power has reduced, leading to oversupply and lower prices of many goods, she said.

Ha said the price of food and vegetables at the wholesale market was likely to remain low in the coming weeks and months because the tough economic conditions were forcing many people to spend less.

This explains why the price of many foodstuffs at the wholesale market remained low despite the fact that the petrol price has increased three times within three weeks, Ha noted.

Traders at the Binh Dien wholesale market also reported oversupply and falling prices.

On August 14, the market received 240 tonnes of pork and more than 900 tonnes of seafood, a rise of 10 per cent over the previous week.

Nguyen Dang Phu, the market's deputy director, said the price of pork was VND44,000 per kilo and that of codfish (class 1) was VND125,000 per kilo (down by VND5,000, over the previous week). Meanwhile, anchovy prices stood at VND23,000 per kilo (down VND3,000) and tra fish at VND23,000 per kilo (down VND2,000).

Irrational behavior

As prices continued to fall in wholesale market, the prices of many foodstuff and vegetables at traditional retail markets have increased remarkably since the beginning of this year.

Several housewives and consumers have complained that the prices were unreasonably higher, sometimes two or even three times that of wholesale market prices.

For instance, the price of cucumber at wholesale markets is around VND4,000 per kilo while traditional retail markets charge about VND12,000-15,000 per kilo. Corresponding figures for tomatoes and pumpkins are VND6,500 per kilo versus VND13,000-15,000 per kilo and VND3,000 per kilo versus VND8,000-9,000 per kilo respectively.

Vendors at the market claim their high prices are a result of increasing fuel prices, but when asked why prices were falling at wholesale markets at the same time, a few of them told Viet Nam News that people were free to go there.

Some people blamed local authorities for not taking strict action against unreasonably high pricing of several essential goods at the traditional retail markets.

Local media have carried reports recently about many people opting to sell vegetables and fruits at illegal wet markets on HCM City streets because they can earn more money than by working as manual labourers.

The Sai Gon Giai Phong (Liberated Sai Gon) newspaper yesterday cited unnamed experts as saying authorities needed to crack down on vendors at the traditional retail markets who were charging unreasonably high prices for essential goods. They said this was necessary to ensure the rights and profits of both farmers and customers, and would help stimulate purchasing power.

Meanwhile, the Big C and LotteMart supermarket chains are now having a promotion for thousands of products, including fresh food, dried food, cosmetics, electronics and home appliances, offering discounts of up to 40 per cent. — VNS

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