Retailers urge DTI to reach price-freeze deal with producers

THE supermarket industry has asked the government to lean on manufacturers not to raise prices in the next three months in order to contain inflation.

Steven T. Cua, Philippine Amalgamated Supermarkets Association president, said the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) should do so to help consumers deal with soaring prices.

“The DTI should talk quickly to at least one manufacturer in each of the major food categories and have these suppliers agree not to increase prices of selected items for the next three months during this hard time. The DTI could also extend the invitation to all manufacturers (willing to) keep their prices steady for the next three months,” Mr. Cua said in a Viber message.  

“This should involve all food categories such as milk, coffee, bread, bread spread, bottled water, pasta, tomato sauce, instant noodles, fruit cocktail, canned meat, canned fish, powdered milk, evaporated and condensed liquid milk, biscuits, cooking oil, condiments, and many more. Just for certain sizes for all categories,” he added.

On Nov. 4, the Philippine Statistics Authority announced that headline inflation rose 7.7% in October, led by surging food and utilities prices.

Inflation was 6.9% in September and 4% in October 2021.

After reaching such an agreement, Mr. Cua said that the DTI should issue a list of products for which prices will effectively be on hold.  

“This connotes volunteerism within the business sector to cooperate with government and society given the hard times,” Mr. Cua said.

“Producers earn ‘pogi’ points from the public and government, and hopefully, increased sales and market share. Consumers clap their hands for these generous manufacturers and feel a certain relief from overheating prices,” he added.

Mr. Cua also proposed offering incentives to participating manufacturers that do not affect the government’s tax collection efforts.

“There is no need to get into snack foods and other non-essentials or specialized items. Keep this is as simple and basic as possible,” Mr. Cua said.  

“Some products have increased in price already three to four times during the last 12 months. A few imported food items have made one-time, big-time price increases of 30% to 40% due to increase in cost of production coupled with the rising cost of living and food being the top expense of households,” he added.

The DTI has confirmed that it has pending price increase applications from the manufacturers of products such as canned goods, milk, coffee, and bread.   

The latest suggested retail price bulletin of the DTI issued in Aug. 12 reflected price increases ranging from 3.29% to 10% for 67 out of the 218 stock keeping units due to increased raw material and packaging costs.  

The products that posted price increases include canned sardines packed in tomato sauce, processed milk, coffee refills, coffee 3-in-1 mixes, noodles, detergent soap, bottled water, candles, and condiments.

Other price increase applications pending with the DTI cover the sandwich bread product known as Tasty and pandesal, which were filed by the Philippine Baking Industry Group (PhilBaking). The group is asking to increase the price of pandesal to P27.50 from P23.50, and Tasty to P42.50 from P38.50.

BusinessWorld asked the DTI to comment but had yet to respond at the deadline. — Revin Mikhael D. Ochave