Herb sellers told not to price gouge
Vendors could face up to seven years in jail or a fine of not more than 140,000 baht or both if they gouge prices of medicinal herbs, warned the Internal Trade Department.
The department's warning came after a surge in demand for medicinal herbs such as white galingale, ginger, galangal, kaffir lime leaves and lemongrass.
For example, the price of white galingale at Rama V fresh market was quoted at 150-170 baht per kilogramme, a rise from 80-90 baht per kg in the same period last year, while ginger was 100 baht per kg, up from 70-80 baht per kg.
Patcharee Phayakwong, deputy director-general of the Internal Trade Department, said the department has been monitoring the prices of medicinal herbs related to Covid-19 treatment, suggesting the surge in prices stems mostly from strong demand.
However, she said that this will benefit farmers and insisted the prices of herbs are moving in line with the market mechanism as supplies are failing to match demand.
"Any measures to control the prices, if exercised, may result in a drastic supply shortage because it may lead to farmers delaying their harvest," she said.
With the lockdown measures to contain Covid-19 in place, Commerce minister Jurin Laksanawisit has ordered the Internal Trade Department to examine and closely monitor the situation of quantity and prices of goods, especially essential consumer products, surgical face masks, alternative face masks, hand gels and medical and pharmaceutical products to provide sufficient quantities to meet the needs of people and to prevent entrepreneurs from taking advantage.
Phusit Ratanakul Sereroengrit, director-general of the Trade Policy and Strategy Office under the Commerce Ministry, said demand for herbal products is growing as organic and health-conscious trends gain momentum, notably after virus outbreaks.
Moreover, the increase in ageing populations has also helped boost the demand for herbal products, he said.
"As far as the office has studied, herbs have promising growth potential in the domestic and international market," Mr Phusit said. "Key factors that boost the growth of herbs and herb products include increasing health concerns, demand for naturally-based products made from local wisdom and transparent disclosure of ingredients."
An ageing society and digital lifestyle are also megatrends that positively impact herbs and herbal products, he said, urging Thai manufacturers to speed up the use of technology and innovations in their production while upgrading products to meet environmentally friendly and traceability standards and safety requirements.