Prices of a number of basic food items in Brunei have increased compared to last year as COVID-19 continues to affect the delivery of goods globally according to a report on the current price of basic commodities in the market. 

The report was released on Monday by the Department of Economic Planning and Statistics (DEPS) based on information collected from about 100 businesses across all four districts. 

Image: Shutterstock

The report showed an increase in prices of chicken in the last few months due to an increase in chicken feed prices as well as a significant and prolonged shortage of chickens from November to December of last year. 

The price increase has also been linked to a notable rise in domestic demand as chickens have been used as an alternative product to meat and how poultry products are currently used as raw materials for locally made processed foods such as sausages and nuggets. 

The shortage of chicken is further reinforced by the fact that less than 30 of the businesses surveyed were reported to sell chicken with limited supply. Consumers have also reported on the shortage of chicken supply. 

However, the rate of profit on the sale of raw chicken in most major supermarkets is still at a “reasonable level” with the exception of some business premises which have been found selling the product at above average prices. 

Meanwhile, prices for agricultural products such as onions, ginger and chilli have also experienced an increase in the last four months due to harvest issues in producing countries as weather conditions have been unpredictable. 

“This is even more pronounced in recent weeks where heavy rains and floods have been reported in neighbouring countries,” the DEPS said in a statement. 

“Apart from that, the rising logistics costs at the regional and global levels due to travel restrictions are also a major factor contributing to the increase in prices of these products,” they added. 

Source: Department of Economic Planning and Statistics

Cooking oil seemed to experience the highest increase in prices due to the rise in import prices from supplying countries as the average of increase ranged between 14 to 28 per cent, with a price gap from $7.40 to $11.15 in August 2020 to $8.45 to $14.30 in January of this year. 

Meanwhile, premium cooking oil such as sunflower oil only experienced a slight increase in price; between two (2) per cent to 23 per cent from $4.50 to $8.00 last year to $4.60 to $ 8.00 currently. 

The maximum price for cooking oil is set by DEPS under the Price Control Act, Chapter 142.

At the same time, importers have brought in several new brands of palm oil at more competitive prices compared to existing popular brands as alternatives, providing the consumer choices to suit their needs. 

“In general, the increase in the price of basic food items is due to supply issues” the DEPS explained adding that the limited stock from supplying countries have negatively impacted the prices of goods imported into Brunei. 

“Sea and land transportation costs have also increased due to travel restrictions following the COVID-19 pandemic, which has affected the influx of imports and supplies into the Brunei Darussalam market,” they continued. 

According to the DEPS, despite the department’s efforts in monitoring and setting the maximum prices for some goods, price inflation on some products can not be completely curbed due to the uncontrollable factors mentioned above. 

The department went on to recommend importing companies to import basic food items from alternative sources to maintain the availability and accessibility of such products to the public. 

Business premises were also told to not take advantage of the situation to try and increase their profit rates and to employ rationing strategies to aoid hoarding and ensure access to consumers. 

“Furthermore, members of the public, including restaurants are advised to not panic buy or stockpile and to practice reasonable purchasing and consideration with other users in any purchase,” said the DEPS. 

The public were also advised to be the eyes and ears of the government by providing additional information to the DEPS on any business practices that are suspected of violating the laws under the responsibility of DEPS through the consumer hotline at Darussalam 123.

THE BRUNEIAN | BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN

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