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COA probing sudden spike in pork prices

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- The Council of Agriculture (COA) dispatched investigators to southern markets in Taiwan to probe the recent increase in pork prices yesterday, stating that should figures continue to increase, the possibility of illegal markups and attempted monopolization will increase, possibly necessitating the involvement of the Fair Trade Commission (FTC).

Following the deaths of over 210,000 swine as a result of Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea (PED), pork prices have soared in the southern parts of Taiwan, resulting in rumors of illegal price markups and attempted monopolizations and leading the COA to criticize the price increases as both unreasonable and absurd.

Pork prices in Kaohsiung and Pingtung registered significant increases, with Tainan registering the biggest increase of NT$86 per kilo yesterday and NT$83.17 per kilo today, resulting in the highest prices in a decade, according a report conducted by the National Animal Industry Foundation.

Signs of Illegal Markups and Attempted Monopolization

COA Deputy Director Chu Ching-cheng (朱慶誠) said data reveals that though the considerable number of swine deaths has had an impact on the market, the supply of pigs is not experiencing a shortage and will meet demand.

The Department of Animal Industry under the COA cited the fact that pork prices in the north and south are relatively similar, despite the considerably lower demand in the south, as evidence of illegal markups and attempted monopolization.

FTC authorities have been alerted, according to Chu, who stated that the commission has promised to look into the discrepancy.

Efforts in Recovery

In an effort to improve the current situation, the COA and FTC have both established respective taskforces to conduct regular checkups and to regulate the market as soon as March 14 after imported pork begins to be available in the markets.

An agreement has also been reached between Taiwan Sugar Corporation (TSC) and the Taiwan Frozen Meat Packers Association (TFMPA) to increase their swine stock available on the market. After negotiations with the Department of Animal Industry, TSC has also added 2,000 pigs weighing an average of 110 kg on top of their extra 1,000 pigs, weighing 115 kg on average.

Of the 24,000 pigs traded on the market daily, meat processors dominate 17 to 18 percent of purchases. Following discussion between the COA and TFMPA, meat processors will decrease their daily purchases by 15 percent, which will release 500 to 600 extra live pigs to benefit the market.

Commodity Prices Rise

Though the average Consumer Price Index decreased in February, commodity prices of necessities have hit an all time high over the past 25 months, rising 2.84 percent. The prices of food and beverage-related products have increased most significantly in comparison to others. On average, poultry has increased 14.22 percent, followed by fruit at 10.01 percent, meat at 6.18 percent and seafood at 4.53 percent.

Due to the increase in pork prices, food vendors are making less than they can afford, forcing them to raise the selling price of their products. As a result, select dumplings and pot stickers from famous local dumpling chain 8Way (八方雲集) have received a NT$0.5 increase in their selling price.

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