June 07, 2014 00:00
By Petchanet Pratruangkrai
Businesses nod to NCPO order, six-month freeze agreed
Food and consumer-goods manufacturers and modern traders operating food courts have agreed to cooperate with the National Council for Peace and Order and freeze prices until the end of November, in order to ease people’s cost-of-living burden amidst a recovering economy.
Speaking after a meeting yesterday with representatives from food and consumer-goods producers and modern traders to request them to freeze their prices, Commerce Ministry permanent secretary Srirat Rastapana said most enterprises had agreed to help consumers by maintaining retail prices.
“An unchanged cost of living should ensure that the Consumer Price Index does not surge over the remainder of the year. However, the ministry will only enforce the price-freeze policy when it is necessary to do so,” said Srirat.
Maintaining prices for six months should be in accordance with the prevailing situation and the pace of economic recovery, she said, adding the ministry will try to allow the market mechanism to do its work and will only enforce the price-freeze measure on a temporary basis, as necessary.
Moreover, when the measure expires in six months’ time, manufacturers are unlikely to increase their retail prices immediately as they will be concerned about the impact of such a move on sales and consumer spending power, said the official.
The price-freeze policy applies to 205 items of essential goods and foods on the ministry’s price-control and monitoring list.
Among the products covered are soap, toothpaste, shampoo, milk, instant noodles, paper napkins, pork, chicken, seasoning, and cooking oil.
Three modern traders – Tesco Lotus, Big C and Tops Supermarket – yesterday also agreed to maintain prices for fast-food menus in their food courts, with 10 dishes being sold at Bt35-Bt40 apiece.
Vichai Assarasakorn, vice chairman of the Thai Chamber of Commerce, said private enterprises had responded promptly in cooperating with the government to relieve the burden on consumers.
Only some consumer products will need to have their prices adjusted upwards if production costs increase sharply, while the prices of most goods should remain unchanged, he explained.
Vichai added that amidst recovering economic growth, private enterprises did not want to increase prices as to do so would affect their competitiveness and sales – hence the price-freeze measure was acceptable for now.
Kitti Tangjitrmaneesakda, secretary-general of the Federation of Thai Industries, said manufacturers would not increase prices in the immediate future as they wanted to ensure sustainable economic growth.
If consumers have better confidence in the economy, their purchasing power should grow and that will benefit enterprises in the long run, he said.
Pun Paniengvait, a representative of Thai President Foods, the manufacturer of Mama instant noodles, said the company would keep its prices stable in accordance with government policy, as the company could manage its production costs in advance. Foreseeing higher raw-material costs, the company plans to book key materials forward so that it can ensure its retail prices are unchanged for the next six months, he said.