Businesses quietly pre-empt energy price hike

The China Post news staff

People are feeling the pinch of higher living costs even before the electricity price rises slated for mid-May come into effect, with a range of restaurants and food wholesalers planning or already having introduced price hikes. Rice wholesalers were mulling a price surge of packaged rice of at least 20 percent in a meeting yesterday in Taichung. While Li Tsang-lang (李蒼郎), head of the Agriculture and Food Agency under the Council of Agriculture, vowed to pinpoint the margin for a reasonable price increase considering both the rice farmers’ higher costs and the stability of rice prices, as well as how to cap the rate of price hikes accordingly, wholesalers were saying that the rise must be “at least 20 to 30 percent” to cope with the higher oil prices and upcoming power price increase. According to local media reports, some restaurants have already updated their price tags. Some mom and pop noodle places and local eateries have announced price hikes or cut back on food portions and put the blame on higher energy costs, the United Evening News (UEN) reported yesterday.

Restaurant chain Pizza Hut phased out some of its promotional set meals, in effect increasing prices for those items. Li Shih-hau (李世豪), a representative of the franchise, however, stressed that these discount deals were simply terminated as scheduled and they will be followed by other promotions. The restaurant has no plans for price changes, Li added. Local beverage chain CoCo also hiked prices starting April, the UEN reported. The prices of oolong green tea, green tea and roasted oolong have increased from NT$20 to NT$25 per cup while the price of a cup of milk tea went up from NT$45 to NT$50. Xiao Sian-hong (蕭憲鴻), CoCo’s marketing manager, also refused to characterize the changes as price hikes but referred to them as “cancellation of promotions.” A famous oyster omelet vendor in Shilin Night Market will start charging NT$60, instead of NT$50, for a serving of its star dish in May. In the same month Chia Te Bakery, a popular pineapple cake retailer in Taipei, will change its price tag from NT$27 apiece to NT$28.

The Fair Trade Commission said it is conducting a thorough survey to determine whether the recent spate of price increases involves any abnormal price hikes or price fixing, and will keep the Legislative Yuan posted on its latest findings.