PRICES of 93 basic necessities and prime commodities, including processed milk and canned meat, increased by as much as 11 percent since January, according to consumer group Laban Konsyumer Inc.
However, Trade Undersecretary Ruth B. Castelo refuted this report. She branded it inaccurate, as computations made by the Department of Trade and Industry’s (DTI) Consumer Protection Group claimed only 84 items have seen higher prices in the first seven months of the year. In a news release on Monday, Laban Konsyumer President Victorio A. Dimagiba Jr. said his group reviewed items with suggested retail prices (SRPs), and found 93 commodities of the 132 in the original SRP list have higher prices as of July 16. The expanded SRP list now has 211 goods.
“[This is] bad news for the consumers because in the old SRP list of 132 items, 93 items had increased prices since January to date, meaning 70 percent of the goods increased prices. If we use the new denominator in 211 items in the expanded SRP, that is a 44- percent increase, which is still bad news for consumers, and the poor are greatly affected here,” Dimagiba argued.
The SRP applies to more than a dozen products, namely, canned sardines in tomato sauce, processed milk, coffee refill, bread, instant noodles, iodized salt, detergent soap, bottled water, candles, canned meat, condiments, soap and batteries. “When we excluded the 17 items of bottled water and 28 items of candles, that is an unconscionable 113-percent increase in the listed items,” he added.
There were 15 brands of canned sardines, 22 brands of processed milk, 24 brands of canned meat and 16 brands of condiments that have seen price surges from January to July, according to Laban Konsyumer.
“The percentage increases range from 2 percent all the way up to 11 percent, or P0.25 to P1.95 per piece. Six brands of canned meat and condiments had increased twice this year. For the month of July, three brands of sardines had increased prices. Under the expanded SRP, four brands of condiments had price increases,” Dimagiba said.
He said this is just “too high for the poor consumers,” and renewed his group’s call to the DTI to roll out a moratorium on any price hikes on commodities with SRP until the opening quarter of next year. Dimagiba explained pressures on supply and demand could trigger another round of price surges with the holiday season approaching, starting with the so-called ber months.
The consumer group leader also urged trade officials to discourage manufacturers from making use of easy-open lid for canned goods. He said a can of premium sardines has a listed SRP of P16, but those with easy-open lid have a registered SRP of P16.50.
Laban Konsyumer has transmitted these measures, among others, to the DTI for consideration, as the government struggles to temper inflation, or the general increase in commodity prices. Inflation in July hit a five-year high at 5.7 percent, putting year-to-date inflation at 4.5 percent, well above the Central Bank’s target range of 2 percent to 4 percent.
In a text message to the BusinessMirror, Castelo of the DTI said Laban Konsyumer’s “numbers are not accurate,” and computations made by the agency prove otherwise.
“In DTI computations, only 84 out of the 209 SKUs [shelf-keeping units] increased their prices, [while the other] 125 remained stable. This comprised only 40 percent [of the SRP list], contrary to the 70 percent to 113 percent alleged by Laban Konsyumer,” she said.
Castelo added this will still be the case even if bottled water and candles are excluded from the picture. “If you remove nonfood products, like water and candles, this will increase slightly to 45 percent, still far from the 70 percent to 113 percent claimed by Laban Konsyumer,” she argued.
Castelo, however, admitted price surges in the past months were mostly recorded on canned goods, as reported by Laban Konsyumer. “Basically [increases were posted in] canned fish and meat products, although not all brands increased,” she said.
As of July 16 SRP on canned sardines range from P12 to P16.50, with the highest having an easy- open lid feature. On the other hand, SRP on luncheon meat vary from P31.50 to P32.50; meat loaf P16.50 to P19.45; corned beef P26 to P36.20; and beef loaf P16.25 to P24.90.