Deni Ghifari, Jakarta – The Indonesian Traditional Market Traders Association (IKAPPI) says staple food prices have been going up long before they normally do as the year draws toward a close.
The association wrote in a press statement on Tuesday that prices would usually go up one week before the year-end holiday season of Christmas and New Year, as demand surges, but that this year was different.
"An abnormal increasing trend has started to surface," reads IKAPPI's statement, detailing that rice, chili and sugar prices had been going up unseasonally.
According to the Center for Strategic Food Prices (PIHPS), a centralized market information system managed by Bank Indonesia (BI), the price of cabai rawit merah (type of cayenne pepper), had shot up by 7 percent in traditional markets in just one week, rising to Rp 92,000 (US$5.96) per kilogram on Tuesday.
The price of the popular chili pepper has also been steadily rising at modern retailers, where it is now sold at Rp 101,900 per kg. It even touched Rp 146,250 per kg in Maluku.
The price of rice, on the other hand, has either stagnated or marginally declined by 0.3 to 0.7 percent to between Rp 13,350 and Rp 15,950 per kg, depending on the quality.
Premium sugar at traditional markets was sold at Rp 17,650 on Tuesday, marking a 1.44 percent increase from a week ago. Local sugar, meanwhile, was up 1.17 percent at Rp 17,300.
Sugar was slightly cheaper at modern retail outlets with Rp 15,900 and Rp 16,450 for local and premium quality, respectively.
"Some other commodities will potentially increase [in price], like shallots that are already at Rp 34,000 to Rp 35,000 per kg, and onions that have broken through Rp 41,000 per kg," read the statement further.
IKAPPI detailed that chicken was priced at Rp 41,000 a kilo and eggs were "stable at the high price" of Rp 28,000 per kg.
Speaking before House of Representatives Commission VI, which oversees trade and industry, Trade Minister Zulkifli Hasan said policies were in place to control food inflation, including the possibility of punishing interim regional leaders.
"If [for instance] chili prices suddenly shoot up above a certain level and regents, governors or mayors fail to control them, [the central government] can replace the interim ones," said Zulkifli on Monday.He said regional administrations had emergency funds that could be used to control inflation and "it's just a matter of will, [since] the mechanism is already in place".
The policy mechanisms, said Zulkifli, helped contain price fluctuation. "If it's daily [fluctuation], it's totally normal, really. That's just supply and demand [in practice]," said the minister.
Rice contributed more than any other commodity to inflation in October, Statistics Indonesia (BPS) revealed earlier this month.
A BPS official said the staple food accounted for 0.58 percentage points of the annual consumer price index (CPI) growth of 2.56 percent recorded in October.
BPS data show that retail prices for rice surged 19.12 percent year-on-year. The increase was even higher for unhusked rice, at 27.95 percent.