State to tackle host of prices
The government is pledging to tackle the prices of oil palm, coconut, fertiliser and private hospitals' services as it tries to improve farmers' income and ease consumers' costs of living.
Commerce Minister Jurin Laksanawisit, who chaired the Central Committee on Prices of Goods and Services meeting yesterday, said the group agreed to install crude palm oil (CPO) automatic level gauges at 450 locations within crushing mills and refineries.
The automatic level gauges will enable regulators to observe real-time information for CPO stocks, giving them verifiable data to help with decision-making and to prevent future smuggling.
The government expects to spend 500 million baht on the installation.
Although the previous government tried to tackle the oil palm price slump, the sector remains in a glut.
The price of domestic fresh palm nuts hit a two-decade low in April at 1.60-1.80 baht per kilogramme, far below growers' costs and the average of 3.45 baht per kg last year and 4 baht per kg in 2017.
The previous government spent 2 billion baht to rev up prices and ease farmers' hardships.
The prices of fresh palm nuts are currently quoted at 2.50-3 baht per kg. CPO stocks are at about 450,000 tonnes.
On Aug 19, the National Oil Palm Policy Committee agreed to set the guaranteed price for fresh palm nuts at four baht a kg to help growers with costs.
Under the programme farmers will get paid only the difference when prices fall below the benchmark prices.
Mr Jurin said the committee also agreed to extend its grip on the movement of mature coconuts, coconut meat and dried coconut meat to cover Pattani from the existing seven provinces: Bangkok, Chon Buri, Songkhla, Satun, Surat Thani, Narathiwat and Chumphon.
On Aug 27, the Commerce Ministry is due to call a meeting with all stakeholders to tackle the price slump for coconuts.
Later next month, he said fertiliser traders and manufacturers will be invited to discuss fertiliser prices.
Mr Jurin said the ministry also pledges to continue reining in the prices of drugs, medical supplies and medical services charged by private hospitals.
According to the Internal Trade Department, 37 of 354 private hospitals missed the July 31 deadline to provide information to the department on the actual costs and their listed prices of drugs, medical supplies and medical services.
They were ordered to submit information to the department by Aug 31 or face legal action.
As of Aug 15, 334 hospitals have submitted their information, leaving only 20 that have yet to provide information as ordered.
Medical costs and set prices will be updated in the department's database so that the public can compare prices and make informed choices.
Once the prices have been compiled and adjusted, the department will publish the information on its website and via QR code.
Those failing to respond to a summons will be subject to a three-month jail term and/or a fine of 5,000 baht.