Consumer prices will continue to surge at a rate of about 1 per cent in August, predicts the Ministry of Finance, bringing cumulative inflation since December to around 16 percent so far this year.

With inflation for the entire year targeted at 17 per cent, the director of the ministry's price management department, Nguyen Tien Thoa, admitted that it would be difficult to meet the target, explaining that there remained both domestic and international economic factors that could negatively affect consumer prices through the end of the year.

While the prices of some goods could be continually adjusted under State management, the Government needed to draw up a roadmap for overall prices increases in order to avoid economical shock, Thoa said.

"It could be quite difficult to reduce inflation very quickly seeing as the current situation has been caused by inherent economic shortcomings several years in the making," Thoa said.

Newly named Minister of Finance Vuong Dinh Hue also said last week that his first priority upon taking office would be to work closely with the State Bank of Vietnam to strictly implement tight monetary and financial policies in combination with market controls in order to better curb inflation.

Meanwhile, rising food prices and declining supplies were having the greatest impact on the inflation rate, the ministry said.

"The supply of fresh meat, fruits and vegetables is likely to decline this month, pushing prices up," the ministry warned in a statement published on its website last Thursday.

The blue-ear epidemic has taken its toll on the nation's pork supplies, reducing pig herds by 3.7 percent.

High consumption of sugar and other raw materials used to produce traditional cakes for the upcoming Mid-Autumn Festival was also expected to boost food prices this month. The ministry said it would enhance price label inspections to more strictly manage the domestic market as well as keep a closer watch on business input costs, distribution and sale prices, ensuring timely action against violations of regulations.

"Timely and accurate market and price forecasts will also be made to help ministries and relevant agencies take suitable measures as needed to stockpile goods and stabilise the market," the ministry said.

"Export taxes on food and food products, especially those of which the country is facing a shortage, will be also considered."/.