Amid inflation, ‘noche buena’ to be costlier
Updated @ 2:07 a.m., Oct. 17, 2018
Two-thirds of “noche buena” (Christmas Eve feast) goodies like “queso de bola,” fruit cocktails and pasta cost more as their suggested retail prices (SRPs) have risen, giving no relief to Filipinos who have spent the past months tightening their belts because of soaring inflation.
Only a fourth of the Christmas goodies kept the same price, according to Trade Undersecretary Ruth Castelo, who heads the consumer protection group of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI).
The list of the goodies included a few new products that were not covered before by SRP.
Asked for comment, Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said the price increases should not create panic among consumers.
“Those that increased are the high-end brands and only on special products, like premium ham and [queso] de bola, fruit cocktail and mayonnaise,” Lopez said.
“But basic, regular and mass-based brands of ham [and queso de bola have] no price increases,” he added.
While the DTI assured consumers that new SRPs would remain unchanged until the end of the holiday season, a consumer group led by a former trade official feared this would “set the stage” for even higher prices.
This is because SRPs act more as a guide than a rule, according to Victorio Dimagiba, president of Laban Konsyumer Inc. (LKI).
Noche buena goodies are not considered basic necessities or prime commodities, unlike other manufactured goods covered by the SRP.
Dimagiba said the SRPs of queso de bola increased within the range of P20 to P55, while those of ham across different brands went up by P5 to P38.75.
Price increase range
Based on LKI’s computations, these are the ranges of price increase of the following products as of Oct. 13: fruit cocktail (P2.25 to P10.75), cheese (P1.90 to P18.10), sandwich spread (P0.25 to P9.80), mayonnaise (P0.30 to P25.75), pasta/spaghetti (P0.85 to P4.50), elbow and salad macaroni (P0.95 to P6.50), spaghetti sauce (P0.20 to P3), creamer (P2 to P6.50) and tomato sauce (P0.25 to P5.501).
Dimagiba, who used to lead the same consumer protection group under the DTI, said manufacturers had historically increased prices in December amid inflation.
The spike this year, however, is significantly higher than that recorded a year ago, giving manufacturers more pressure to push up their prices, according to Dimagiba.
As of September, inflation rose to 6.7 percent compared to a year ago, the highest in nearly a decade.
This was largely driven by the 9.7-percent price increase of food and nonalcoholic drinks, according to the Philippine Statistics Authority.
In contrast, inflation grew only 3 percent in the same month last year.
“It was the DTI that set the stage. It set the SRPs higher compared to last year,” Dimagiba said.
Further increase expected
“Inflation will push manufacturers to further increase those items as we enter December,” he added.
Castelo dismissed this, however, noting that the DTI would only consider any new adjustment on the SRPs “after the 2018 Christmas season.” /kga /pdi
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