Ministry sets up war rooms to monitor prices

Ministry sets up war rooms to monitor prices

The Commerce Ministry on Monday set up war rooms to closely monitor and supervise essential consumer goods and services sectors to curb price gouging nationwide while denying requests from the private sector to raise carbonated drink prices.

Chicken raisers and producers who met with the Internal Trade Department also yesterday agreed to freeze chicken prices until the situation improves, but asked for the government to help subsidise production costs.

According to Boonyarit Kalayanamit, commerce permanent-secretary, the war rooms chaired by himself will be tasked with following up and tackling high prices, especially of products and taking legal action against merchants who take advantage of consumers by raising prices unfairly.

Mr Boonyarit said Commerce Minister Jurin Laksanawisit who called an urgent meeting yesterday also authorised provincial governors under The Price of Goods and Services Act (1999) nationwide to function as presidents of war rooms at the provincial level.

Wattanasak Sur-iam, director-general of the Internal Trade Department under the Commerce Ministry, said the department has closely monitored the prices of consumer products and has yet to come up with any policies to allow traders or manufacturers to raise the prices of their products.

Instead, he said the ministry has asked for cooperation from manufacturers to help freeze selling prices as long as possible to alleviate consumers' hardship.

"Manufacturers who need to raise prices have to clarify details of their production costs," he said.

To alleviate the cost of living, Mr Wattanasak said the Commerce Ministry is scheduled to propose at the cabinet meeting today an allocation of 1.4 billion baht from the central budget to fund measures and programmes to reduce the cost of living for a period of three months.

The ministry plans to organise discount campaigns at 3,050 distribution points and add more Thong Fah (Blue Flag) low-priced schemes to distribute essential products and food to communities nationwide.

Discounted products, including chicken, pork, eggs and other essential products will be available at community courtyards, fresh markets, department stores, gas stations, convenience stores and mobile groceries.

In a separate development, government spokesman Thanakorn Wangboonkongchana said yesterday Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha expressed growing concern about rising prices of goods and food.

The premier himself will raise the issue at the cabinet meeting today in order to find appropriate and urgent measures to alleviate people's hardship.

The measures should have the least impact on the market mechanism.

"The premier thoroughly understands that prices rise according to the market mechanism, as the prices of several raw materials including energy and animal feed have increased, while supplies of certain products such as pork and chicken have significantly dropped while consumer demand remains the same or higher, particularly during the end of this month which is the period of Chinese New Year's celebrations," said Mr Thanakorn.

According to Mr Thanakorn, such high prices of goods and food products may bring about a surge in the inflation rate, but the government will intervene by asking for cooperation from manufacturers to help cap the prices of certain products to prevent impact on overall consumers.

The government expects the inflation rate to move in a range of 1-3% this year.

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