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How and why ODEPA examines transactions in markets and fairs

How and why ODEPA examines transactions in markets and fairs

How and why ODEPA examines transactions in markets and fairs

 

Note published by the Chilean newspaper La Cuarta, on Monday, June 8, 2020. The original text can be found at this link: https://kiosco.lacuarta.com/reader/08-06-2020-comerciante?location=8

Salomón Manzur Z.

María Emilia Undurraga, Director of ODEPA, highlights the work carried out by “price reporters”.

 

At 4:30 in the morning, price reporters of the Office of Agricultural Studies and Policies (ODEPA) of the Ministry of Agriculture of Chile begin visiting the metropolitan area’s main supply centers, street markets, bakeries and butcher’s shops to examine fruit and vegetable transactions.

María Emilia Undurraga, National Director of ODEPA, provides a detailed description of their work.

- How do price reporters carry out their work?

- “On a regular day, they begin working at 4:30 a.m. to collect prices for fruits and vegetables in wholesale markets, and for the most relevant foods in supermarkets, street markets, bakeries and butcher’s shops in 9 regions across the country, from Arica and Parinacota to Los Lagos. Reporters enter the information they collect into tablets using state-of-the-art technology; this data is then processed and published on ODEPA’s website as well as on the application A Cuánto.

Wholesale prices are announced daily, between 8 a.m. and 10 a.m., depending on the region in which the market is located. Consumer prices are published on Fridays at noon”.

- Is this a risky job?

- “This is a job that must be carried out in the field; it involves a certain level of risk because reporters must be in contact with other people. For this reason, and in light of the health emergency triggered by Covid-19, we have stepped up safety measures to protect reporters, as recommended by health authorities. Reporters comply with social distancing measures, wear masks and wash their hands frequently. We provide them with hand sanitizer and have set up monitoring stations where they must comply with certain safety protocols. The goal is to look after their health; they have families waiting for them at home”.

Undurraga added that “the information that [price reporters] provide is a necessary public good, not only to analyze whether or not certain foods are available, but also to get a sense of prices, which is even more relevant now that families are seeing their income decline—a trend that is expected to persist during the coming months. Transparent information enables us to make better decisions”.

Regarding the specific work carried out by price reporters, the director explained that “they interview traders of different products and, in some regions, even farmers too. By engaging in this dialogue, they are able to collect information on prices, the origin of products and specific characteristics of products sold both in wholesale markets and in street markets. That is how they are able to gauge the status of each marketing center”.

Prices during the pandemic

Regarding price trends during the Covid-19 pandemic, Undurraga noted that prices “are quite stable, despite the fact that they have increased during specific weeks before returning to their previous levels. Fruits and vegetables are available in wholesale markets, and we must protect the entire chain, from farmers in the countryside to stakeholders in markets, warehouses, supermarkets, butcher’s shops and bakeries, to ensure that prices remain stable”.

- Why is it important to monitor prices?

- “When we talk about food security, we must consider two main aspects: whether food is available and whether people are able to purchase it. The latter aspect depends not only on having the necessary financial resources, but also on the ability to leave home (if quarantine measures have been implemented). Due to the economic crisis brought on by the pandemic, price increases may mean that some families will not be able to afford everything they need. That is why price information is so important. Prices may increase for several reasons, including if food availability drops (which is not currently the case) or people buy more than usual, due to uncertainty regarding food availability or price speculation. In this regard, a transparent price system that enables stallholders and storekeepers to purchase their products in the most convenient places can be very helpful, by pressuring stakeholders to comply with market prices”.

 

KEY ADVICE FOR MARKETERS

The Director of ODEPA encourages stallholders, storekeepers and traders in general “to stay informed through the A Cuánto application and other resources, in order to take the best decisions based on the information available on a daily basis”.

She recommended that they “purchase their supplies at wholesale markets or directly from family farmers, and that they take all necessary measures to prevent infections”.

Specific products to pay attention to during the winter:

- During the summer, tomatoes are cheaper because they are in season and abundant. However, during the winter, the supply is smaller, so prices tend to rise between August and October.

- Lettuce prices are lowest during the fall and remain low until August.

- Potatoes are primarily harvested from March to May, with prices varying depending on production levels. Potato yields have been very high this year, so low prices are expected for the winter season.

– Due to the time of year, squash and onion prices may rise, while those for spinach and chard may decrease.

- Prices for apples, pears and kiwis tend to rise during the winter.

- Banana prices remain stable throughout the year because they come from other countries.

- Prices for lemons, oranges and tangerines tend to decrease during this time of year.