Gov’t panel to discuss plans to curb inflation

The China Post news staff

The government’s price monitoring panel will meet Monday to seek ways to curb inflation, economics officials said yesterday. Wheat and corn imported to Taiwan in September were over 50 percent more expensive than the levels last year, according to economics ministry figures.

The Ministry of Economic Affairs is afraid that it will be impossible for commodity prices to come down if they are allowed to go up, the officials said, adding the government has to prevent prices from rising. Vice economics minister Lin Sheng-chung will hold a meeting with the ministry’s panel for monitoring commodity and material prices on Monday to discuss ways to stabilize the prices, the officials said. The state-run Taiwan Sugar (Taisugar) has already received an order from the ministry to help stabilize prices. While London sugar prices hit a 30-year high Thursday, the government has demanded Taisugar refrain from hiking the retail prices — currently NT$36 per kilogram — of its small and medium packages of sugar at least until the end of the year. Taisugar may not raise its sugar prices in the meantime, but it has already raised the prices of other products, such as cooking oil, due to rising material costs, according to the United Evening News. According to the economics ministry, the price of sugar imports rose 10.07 percent in September, as compared to the August level. On an annual basis, the September level represented a 9.29 percent increase. The annual rise in sugar prices was relatively slow compared to the pace of increases for wheat and corn imports. The September prices of wheat and corn imports rose 57.35 percent and 50.92 percent on year, respectively. Compared to the August 2010 levels, they hiked 4.07 percent and 17.96 percent, respectively.

The United Evening News quoted a statistics scholar as saying that although inflation is not yet a problem in Taiwan, the increases in prices of the imports will be reflected in the products on the store shelves in the next three to six months. The upcoming shopping seasons — Christmas, New Year and Chinese New Year — will drive up prices, the scholar said. Taiwan’s economic growth may be strong enough to cushion the inflation impact and vendors may be able absorb the increases. But once the economy slows down, the impacts will start to show, another economics scholar was cited a saying. Economics officials are also anxious about the commodity prices as the mayoral elections near, the paper said. Meanwhile, as international oil prices have hit a six-month high, domestic gasoline prices are likely to go up next week. The newspaper said gasoline prices will increase NT$0.40 per liter starting from Monday.