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Economists Probe into Food Price Increases

China's top economic planning agency said Thursday it has ordered local pricing authorities to launch investigations into prices of major food products.

The probe came after recent price increases at some fast food restaurants and of instant noodles triggered consumers' complaints.

The investigations will mainly cover grain, edible vegetable oil, pork, beef, mutton, and poultry, the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) said in a circular.

The price hikes in grain, edible vegetable oil and pork in China, boosted by global grain price rises since the fourth quarter of last year, have aroused wide concerns, according to the circular.

The NDRC said that some industry associations have initiated united pricing hikes among its member companies, while some firms raised prices by hoarding or fabricating rumors, severely upsetting the market and threatening social stability, the circular said.

The planning agency also ordered local pricing authorities to scrap or slash illegal and high administrative levies on food producers, transporters and sellers.

Analysts said the probe indicated the government's intention to maintain price stability.

China's consumer price index, the main gauge of inflation, hit the 33-month-high of 4.4 percent in June, mainly driven by food price rises.

(Xinhua News Agency August 3, 2007) 

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