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Farm Produce Prices Fall for 7th Week Despite Quake

Agricultural prices had fallen for the seventh consecutive week as of Sunday, indicating that the quake in Sichuan Province hasn't had a major impact on food prices, the Shanghai Securities News reported on Wednesday.

The newspaper cited the latest statistics from the Ministry of Commerce (MOC), which showed that farm produce prices in 36 medium-sized and large cities fell 0.7 percent between May 19 and 25 from a week earlier.

Of the 58 main types of agricultural products, 31 saw prices decrease, 17 saw a rise and 10 were unchanged.

Vegetable prices slid 5.6 percent week-on-week, reflecting seasonal factors, while wholesale prices of pork and lamb eased 0.5 percent. The wholesale price of beef leveled off and grain prices remained stable, according to the MOC.

Farm produce prices dropped 2.9 percent month-on-month in the first three weeks of May, which showed that food price pressures had weakened, according to chief economist Ha Jiming of China International Capital Corp.

Ha predicted that the consumer price index (CPI) pressure would ease in May, and the full-year figure would be 6 percent to 7 percent, taking non-food prices into account. The CPI rose 8.5 percent year-on-year in April.

Food prices account for about a third of the CPI in China.

However, Wei Fengchun, a senior analyst at South China Securities, said that the quake would stimulate consumption and the CPI was still under pressure.

The May 12 earthquake was expected to have an impact on inflation, as Sichuan Province and Chongqing Municipality, two hard-hit areas, together had a large food production base, said Robert Subbaraman, chief economist with Asia Ex-Japan of Lehman Brothers.

He held that the impact would be less than that of the winter weather that paralyzed transportation, cut power and disrupted goods delivery across south China.

Sichuan produces 9.5 percent, 8 percent and 6 percent of the country's pork, edible oil and grain, respectively, the MOC said last week.

(Xinhua News Agency May 28, 2008)

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