This is the month that drivers who do groceries are going to suffer. Not only do they have to bear the brunt of the Rise of the ERPs, they have to bear with the Return of the Hikes, starring Luncheon Meat and Sunshine bread, and co-starring Knife Cooking Oil and The Chicken.

Indeed, it’s going to be more expensive to live now, in every sense of it. The price of daily essentials have started to rise and will continue into the next year. This cost will also be passed on to consumers of cook food. If you have had your fair share from hawkers who profiteered from the GST hike, this news of price hike of groceries will give the hawkers The Licence to Kill more excuses to raise their prices.

Groceries price hike

This will probably affect my decision to dine outside soon as this meant having to fork out more and perhaps my monthly budget. At worst, I would probably have to go without meals for a couple of days in a month. The chicken rice stall at my school had recently risen their food by $0.40, which works out to about $20 to $40 more per month.

I’m hoping that the restaurants proper will not take this opportunity to raise their price as well.

A TRIP to the supermarket will cost more now than it did at the beginning of the year.

A Straits Times check on a random basket of basic goods sold at supermarkets here revealed price increases in almost every category, from fresh chicken to coffee and milk formula.

For instance, a popular brand of luncheon meat cost $1.70 in January, but now costs $2.50. Then, fresh whole chicken sold for about $4.50; the price is now closer to $5.20.

This, on the back of news last week that noodle and bread prices were on the rise.

But Singapore is not alone: Prices of bread, pasta, potatoes and meat are going up, putting pressure on family budgets around the world.

Russia imposed Soviet-style price controls on a range of foodstuffs last month. China has released stockpiles of pork, while Bangladesh, Jordan and Egypt are raising subsidies or slashing import tariffs.

Suppliers The Straits Times spoke to said droughts in Australia, crop failures in the US, reduced milk production and higher cost of tinned food cans are all contributing factors.

Globally, prices of wheat and milk are at historic peaks. Corn and soyabean prices have also risen steeply, and international wheat prices have risen nearly 74 per cent since January.

With higher grain costs, feed will become more expensive, and suppliers say this will mean a rise in meat and milk prices.

Rising food prices have contributed to inflation here. September’s overall Consumer Price Index showed that prices generally retreated by 0.3 per cent from the previous month, but the food component – the biggest item at 23 per cent – rose 3.7 per cent as the cost of fresh vegetables, fruit, seafood and milk powder, as well as hawker and restaurant food, went up.

Consumers The Straits Times spoke to said that while increases for each item may seem like a token sum, together, they add up to a much bigger grocery bill.

Housewife Cynthia Leow, 30, told The Straits Times she noticed she was paying about $10 more during her weekly supermarket trips.

Similarly, Ms Huang Ya Li, 60, said she needed to set aside an additional $20 a month for groceries, compared with the start of the year.

Mr Yeo Guat Kwang, president of the Consumers Association of Singapore, said that price increases were inevitable, with the climate playing a major role in food shortages. But he said things were not as bad as they seemed.

Consumers, he said, had the option of buying house brands from supermarkets, and these were generally cheaper. Supermarket chain NTUC FairPrice said its house brand products are, on average, priced 10 per cent to 15 per cent lower than comparable national brands.

Checks revealed that bread and butter prices for FairPrice’s house brands have remained steady over the past 11 months, but there have been 15 cent to 25 cent increases for coffee and cooking oil.

Besides food, prices of tyres and batteries are also going up. The past 11 months have also seen increases in the goods and services tax, public transport fares, fuel prices and rents.

And now, more hawkers are giving notice that they may not hold out on price increases much longer as they are also feeling the pinch.

The owner of a handmade noodles stall at the Gourmet Paradise foodcourt in the Toa Payoh HDB Hub said she is hoping to charge 20 cents to 30 cents more for every bowl of noodles from next year to cover costs.

She said that rental on her stall, which is now $4,500 a month, is set to rise to $5,500 at the start of next year, and then to $6,500 in 2009.

In the meantime, Ms Huang said she was doing her best to be cautious with her spending: ‘If a meal at a coffee shop is $3 or more, I will look for something cheaper. I eat to fill my stomach, so it does not matter whether the food is nice or whether I am given more ingredients.’

Article obtained from on 5th November 2007; graphic copyrights of Quek Hong Shin

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