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Rice price being monitored closely
By Bao Xinyan (China Daily)
Updated: 2004-03-04 23:58

Concerned over sharp increases in the price of rice over the past week, the price bureau of Nanjing, capital of East China's Jiangsu Province, has started monitoring grain price fluctuations closely by inspecting markets daily since Wednesday.

The price of rice, the most important staple food for local residents, rose by around 14 per cent for the first time in years; and the Nanjing Municipal Price Bureau is ready to take unspecified emergency measures should it fluctuate sharply.

Latest surveys show the price of rice rose from 2.8 yuan (34 US cents) to 3.2 yuan (38 US cents) per kilogram, peaking at 3.6 yuan (44 US cents) on Wednesday.

The price of hybrid rice increased from 2.2 yuan (26 US cents) to 2.4 yuan (28 US cents).

On Tuesday, at a special conference called by the Nanjing Grain Bureau, experts studied price trends, analyzed supply and demand, and put forward several measures to stabilize the situation:

* Inspection of local grain markets every day.

* Collecting information on stocks at trading enterprises throughout the country every week.

* Preparations to ensure stable supply.

* Improving communication among different government departments.

* Encouraging big companies to make purchase plans earlier so that there are no shocks in the market.

* Advocating rational consumption.

The price rise has had a direct impact on people eating out -- many restaurants have raised food prices.

Li Huichao, a Nanjing resident, was surprised to find notices of price rises posted on the walls of many small restaurants near his company.

"I did not think the price of grain had much to do with my daily life. however, when I entered the same restaurant and ordered the same dish, I found I had to pay more. That made me realize that food prices are rising,'' he said.

The price of rice was steady at 3.4 yuan (40 US cents) per kilogram at some big supermarkets in Nanjing Thursday.

"The lowest is 2.8 yuan (34 US cents) per kilogram in our supermarket, but most kinds of rice are sold at about 3.4 yuan (40 US cents),'' said a salesman in Jinrunfa, one of the largest supermarkets in the city.

Grain prices are also rising in many other parts of the country.

According to the grain bureau in Hangzhou, capital of East China's Zhejiang Province, prices have risen by an average of 10 per cent since mid-February.

It is estimated that the grain prices will rise at least 5 per cent this year; and the consumer price index by about 3 per cent, a big jump from last year.

Experts attribute the price hike to a number of factors -- output decreased last year because of natural disasters, national storage levels have remained low, and many provinces and autonomous regions rushed to make purchases.

However, experts point out that the rise is rational, and prices will fall a little bit when early crops enter the market in April and May.

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