Market experts have said they expect the consumer price index ( CPI ) will increase by 0.4-0.5 percent in March, compared to 1.37 percent in February, due to lower food prices, purchasing power and input prices.

Food prices are predicted to fall slightly in March but the price for chicken meat could rise due to bird flu, they said.

Prices for other essential goods such as sugar and fertiliser would reduce slightly because sugar output is expected to reach up to 250,000 tonnes and there would be a limited demand for fertiliser in the coming time.

Experts also said the price of rice would stabilise due to impacts from the world rice price and the temporary purchase of rice on the domestic market.

Many other positive factors could help maintain the stable price of goods and services and potentially even lead to price reductions from March through the end of the year, including the Government's solutions to stabilise the domestic market, curb inflation, good weather and the harvest season, according to the Ministry of Trade and Industry's Market Watch Team.

The experts also predicted that bank loan interest rates would reduce soon to create favourable conditions for enterprises to access credit, cut inventory and prevent stagnation.

Many organisations expect loan interest rates to reduce at the end of the first quarter or early in the second based on many market factors, including CPI .

However, many factors could still boost prices. For example, an outbreak of bird flu would affect poultry supplies and create pressure to increase prices for other foods.

An increase in the world price and import price of petrol would force the domestic petrol price up. A 10 percent increase in the price of coal for the fertiliser, paper and cement industries, which went into effect on February 25, would result in higher prices for goods in those sectors. Prices surges in the healthcare sector would also affect CPI.

If not effectively controlled, speculation and unreasonable price increases would also put pressure on the index.

To promote production, curb inflation and stabilise the macro economy, the Market Watch Team said the Government would find solutions to difficulties that enterprises are facing, including development of a flexible mechanism to import and export sugar, ongoing purchases of rice from farmers, and strict management of fertiliser import activities via border gates and smuggling of fertiliser.

Vo Van Quyen, director of the Domestic Market Department under the Ministry of Industry and Trade, said the ministry would work with the Ministry of Finance and other relevant offices to promote inspections of petrol, oil and gas enterprise and penalise those involved in any trade violations in these sectors.

The ministry has asked oil, petrol and gas dealers to take responsibility for quality and price management in their distribution systems, from the wholesale stage to retail stage, and to avoid unreasonable price increases. /.