The government may introduce price controls, if food prices rise during the coronavirus quarantine, but so far it does not seem likely, Lithuania's Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis said after meeting with retailers.
“I'd like to calm down the people of Lithuania. We have been fully reassured that there's no reason to panic about food supply,” Skvernelis told reporters, responding to fears that the country may face shortages of essential supplies.
Skvernelis met with representatives of the Lithuanian Retailers Association to discuss food prices. According to the prime minister, the country's major supermarket chains are not planning to up prices.
However, if suppliers decide to make use of the situation, the government has tools at its disposal, Skvernelis said.
“We agreed that if there are systemic attempts by suppliers to raise food prices for retailers, they will inform us immediately and we will look for solutions,” according to the prime minister.
“The laws do give the government and the Seimas the possibility to put caps on the prices of essential products,” he added. “I hope that the state won't have to use this tool.”
Rūta Vainienė, the president of the Lithuanian Retailers Association, says that suppliers are already increasing prices for their products.
“Yes, we have such signals,” she said.
According to Vainienė, the association's representatives and the prime minister agreed at the meeting that their common goal was to ensure a smooth supply of essential goods.
“Ensuring smooth supply and trade, and safety for all of us – both our customers and our employees – is our priority. We are making tremendous efforts to make our employees and shoppers feel safe,” Vainienė said.
She noted that panic-shopping for groceries has stopped, but called on people not to go to stores every day.
Higher demand pushing prices up
The association of pig producers has said that prices have been pushed by higher demand.
Algis Baravykas, the head of the association, says not only pork, but other products as well have become more expensive.
“Consumers need to understand that they cannot be the absolute winner in all situations. […] Naturally, the prices of some products have gone down and others have gone up,” he said.
The flows of shoppers have also contributed to the increase in prices, Baravykas said. “It’s just basic market economy, and this is how it works,” he said.
Arūnas Vizickas, the founder of the price monitoring website pricer.lt, says prices of pork as well as other products are rising.
“Since February 26, the price of rice has gone up 11 percent, and that of buckwheat has jumped 35 percent. I cannot say specifically yet, but the prices of meat, pork are growing as well,” Vizinckas told BNS.