MANILA, September 22, 2004 (STAR) By Marianne V. Go - There is a possibility that the price of local pan de sal may increase due to a shortage in US wheat, especially the type used by local bakers for the favorite Filipino breakfast staple.

During the weekly meeting of the National Price Coordinating Council (NPCC), Trade Assistant Secretary for Consumer Welfare and Trade Regulation Norman Hocson tried to rule out an increase in pan de sal prices.

"We are not looking at that (price increase), but if (the unfavorable) weather conditions prevail in the North American countries, then thereís a possibility (of a price increase)."

Hocson explained that the wheat production in the US is currently being affected by the weather.

"Itís weather basically. Although 90 percent of the harvest is in, we are told that weather conditions, rains particularly, have affected the quality of the crop. Itís really technical, but the way I understand it is that the protein yield, in order to be able to get the particular yield that we use here, has been affected because of the rains in North America," Hocson said.

Even the crop in Canada, Hocson added, has been affected.

"They donít see any change until about November. Preferably by then conditions, will improve, so we donít see any increase throughout the year," Hocson said.

The Philippines, Hocson said, sources about 70 percent of its wheat requirement from the US , Canada and Australia. The Philippines also sources some wheat from China.

However, Hocson said, because of increasing local Chinese demand for wheat, China is just producing enough for their own needs.

During the same NPCC meeting, Hocson said, the Department of Agriculture reported that the prices of rice, sugar and cooking oil are stable while prices of meat and poultry products have gone down by P5 per kilogram.

The prices of vegetables, Hocson said, is still a bit high because vegetable farmers are still recovering from the effects of the typhoon a couple of weeks ago.

Prices are beginning to soften, Hocson said, with the same going for fish.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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