The prices of essential foods have been on the rise, although demand has not increased and the Lunar New Year Festival is one month away.

According to the Ministry of Finance's Price Management Department, the prices of meat sold at local markets went up slightly in the first two weeks of December compared with the same period last year.

At several markets in the north, the prices of different kinds of meat have climbed higher by up to 5,000 VND (0.23 USD) per kilo.

According to several butchers in Hanoi, the prices of meat will continue to increase as Tet nears. The price of chicken is expected to be the most volatile and could rise by up to 20,000 VND (0.9 USD) per kilo as it is a must-have dish on every family's altar during the occasion.

Tran Thi Huong, a trader at Kim Lien market, said typically, meat prices increase before the Lunar New Year holiday on the back of limited supply and anticipated higher demand.

"Farmers have begun to stockpile goods and they are waiting for prices to rise further, although demand is already picking up," she noted.

In addition, fruit prices have also become volatile. Banana prices, for instance, have risen by 50 percent, while grapefruit prices have gained 10-20 percent since late November. Other fruit prices have also soared by 7,000-20,000 VND (0.3-0.9 USD) per kilo.

Vegetable prices have also increased rapidly in the past week. Several vegetables have been sold at double or even triple prices in the wholesale markets.

For example, cabbage is being sold at 10,000 VND (0.4 USD) per kilo at small markets, while its wholesale price is 4,000 VND per kilo. Traders said the prolonged cold weather and an increase in petrol prices are the main reasons for the price hike.

However, farmers at other vegetable gardens in Thanh Xuan, Tu Liem, Ha Dong and Hoai Duc districts pointed out that the supply of some vegetables is quite high and that they are being sold at very low prices.

Nguyen Van Tinh, a farmer of the Van Duc Co-operative in Gia Lam District, said the co-operative alone could supply more than 10-15 tonnes of vegetables per day. So, there is no question of a shortage in supply.

Tinh said the prices of some vegetables had, in fact, dropped and farmers are being forced to sell to traders at very low rates.

Nguyen Mac Huong, a resident in Phan Dinh Phung street, said she had started to stock up on food for Tet after she saw prices rising every day. "Everything is much more expensive this time. As usual, there is no clear reason," she added.

At a conference on the food supply and demand this Tet, Deputy Minister of Industry and Trade Ho Thi Kim Thoa confirmed that there will be an adequate supply of goods across the country during the longest and most important annual festival of the country, adding that there are several promotion programmes offering discounts and gifts to consumers, which would reduce the prices of meat by 10,000 VND per kilo.

The purchasing power of the people before the Lunar New Year holiday is forecast to increase by 15 percent from last year. Essential foods have seen the biggest gains in prices, up 10 percent at local supermarkets this year.-VNA