DEPS releases updated food price list

Izah Azahari

The Department of Economic Planning and Statistics (DEPS) at the Ministry of Finance and Economy (MoFE) have collected retail prices for basic food items from some 100 shops in the country, and posted the retail price list through the PenggunaBijak mobile application, social media and official website.

The items include whole chicken, chicken wings, chicken eggs (grade B), beef, mutton and agricultural products such as bombay onions, shallots, garlic, onion, ginger and chilli.

To encourage price transparency, the retail price list had been published and updated three times a week since the end of December 2020, and once a week starting January 18.

The retail prices for a whole chicken on December 29, 2020 and January 18 are at BND4.30 to BND5.50 and BND4.30 to BND5.80 per kilogramme and chicken wings are at BND6.90 to BND9.50 and BND7.40 to BND9.50 per kilogramme.

Chicken eggs (grade B) for a tray of 30 at BND4.60 to BND5.70 and BND4.70 to BND6; beef knuckle at BND14.50 to BND29.50 and BND12.50 to BND29.50 per kilogramme; mutton shoulder at BND26 to BND32.99 and BND25.80 to BND32.99 per kilogramme; bombay onions at BND1.80 to BND2.50 and BND1.50 to BND3.90 per kilogramme; shallots are BND4.70 to BND7.90 and BND3.90 to BND7.90 per kilogramme; garlic at BND1.50 to BND5.80 and BND1.80 to BND6 per kilogramme; onions at BND1.20 to BND2.99 and BND1.20 to BND3.60 per kilogramme; ginger at BND2.40 to BND5.90 and BND2.70 to BND6 per kilogramme; and chilli at BND5 to BND19 and BND11.50 to BND22 per kilogramme.

Apart from the retail price collection, the DEPS also collects information on the cost and retail price of food items to identify arbitrary price increases by business premises.

The price information report shows the increase in chicken prices in the market in recent months due to the increase in chicken feed prices and significant and prolonged shortage of chicken supply starting November 2020, to meet the growing domestic demand.

Among the reasons for the increase in domestic demand include chicken ingredients used as an alternative product to meat; and poultry products are used as raw materials to produce locally made processed foods such as sausages and nuggets. The shortage of chicken supply is reinforced by the latest information, which so far only less than 30 business premises have been found selling chicken with limited supply. Consumers also reported on the shortage of chicken supply.

However, the profit rate for the sale of raw chicken in most major supermarkets is still at a reasonable level, except in some other business premises such as retailers and resellers are found selling at higher than average prices.

For agricultural products, such as onions, ginger and chilli, price increases have also been reported in the last four months, driven by the issue of harvesting in producing countries such as unpredictable weather conditions. This is even more pronounced in recent weeks where heavy rains and floods have also been reported in neighbouring countries. The rising logistics costs at the regional and global levels due to travel restrictions are also a major factor contributing to the increase in price of these products.

As for cooking oil, there are almost 70 brands of cooking oil supplied in the market, of which half are from the palm oil cooking category. Meanwhile, some popular brands of palm oil cooking oil experienced a significant increase in prices due to the increase in import prices from supplier countries. The average rate of increase is between 14 per cent to 28 per cent, with the price gap from BND7.40 to BND11.15 in August 2020 to BND8.45 to BND14.30 in January. Premium cooking oil, such as sunflower oil, only experienced a slight increase in price between two per cent to 23 per cent from BND4.50 to BND8 to BND4.60 to BND8. The maximum price for cooking oil is set by the DEPS under the Term Price Control Act 142.

However, at the same time, importers brought in several new brands of palm oil as an alternative at more competitive prices compared to existing popular brands. With this alternative, users can make choices according to their suitability.

Price comparison of some cooking oils in the market for the popular palm oil cooking oil brand price increase from August 2020 to January sees Labour Refined Cooking Oil (five litres) increased from BND11.15 to BND14.30 respectively, Lazaria Minyak Masak Olein Kelapa Sawit Bertapis (five litres) increased from BND7.40 to BND8.45, Sunco Vegetable Cooking Oil (five litres) increased from BND9.95 to BND11.75, Tradekey 2 x Fractionation Pure Vegetable Cooking Oil (five litres) stayed its price at BND7.80 while Tradekey Pure Vegetable Cooking Oil (five litres) increased from BND7.25 to BND8.30, and Tropical Cooking Oil 2x Fractionation (5,000 millilitres) increased from BND7.55 to BND9.

Meanwhile, August 2020 to January’s price increase of other cooking oils saw Duke Canola Oil (two litres) increased from BND5.65 to BND6.05, Lazaria Sunflower Oil (two litres) from BND4 to BND4.90, Orkide 100 per cent Sunflower Oil (1.8 litres) from BND4.50 to BND4.60, while Afiat 100 per cent Premium Sunflower Oil (two litres), Corala Pure Corn (two litres) and Prince Soya Bean Oil Pure (two litres) stayed unchanged at BND8, BND6.85 and BND5.75.

In general, the increase in the price of basic food items is due to supply issues that have implications on prices. About 75 per cent of the country’s food supply is imported. Therefore, prices for these food items are largely influenced by inflation rates from foreign countries, which are currently rising. The limited supply of exporting countries due to the pandemic also has a negative impact on the prices of goods imported into this country. Sea and land transportation costs also increased due to travel restrictions, which has affected the influx of imports and supplies into the local market.

In the effort of the DEPS to monitor the price and setting the maximum price for some goods such as cooking oil and baby milk powder, the increase in the price of such goods cannot be completely curbed due to factors that are out of control as mentioned above.

The DEPS recommends importing companies to import basic food items from alternative sources to maintain the ability and accessibility of the public in obtaining such goods.

Business premises are also advised not to take advantage of this situation in increasing profit rates and implementing effective rationing strategies to avoid the purchase of food items in excess of actual needs (hoarding) and ensure access to basic food items to consumers.

In addition, the public, including restaurant owners, are advised to not panic buy or stockpile, and only buy at a reasonable rate, as well as be able to adopt a considerate attitude with other users in any purchase. The public is also advised not to disseminate unverified information on social media, which can cause the public to worry. The act of disseminating false information is an offence and is reported under Section 34, Chapter 148 of the Public Order Act.

The public is also advised to be the eyes and ears of the government by providing additional information to DEPS on any business practices that are suspected of violating the laws under the responsibility of DEPS through the consumer hotline at Darussalam line 123.

As a long-term measure, the MoFE, in collaboration with the ministry and other agencies are working to strengthen the supply of domestic food items in the country.