Consumer prices are expected to remain relatively stable, even amid buoyant spending over the second Covid-era Pchum Ben period which kicks off this week, according to traders based in the capital.
Cambodian Buddhists will observe Pchum Ben for 15 days, which falls from September 22 to October 6 this year, the first 14 of which are enumerated as the first-through-14th Kan Ben Days, where families typically gather at pagodas, bringing food and other offerings for monks.
The main festivities will be celebrated from October 5-7, starting on the 14th Kan Ben Day and ending a day after the primary day of “great offering”, or Ben Thom, on October 6, which coincides with the new moon. The holiday is dedicated to their ancestors and is an occasion for families to get together.
At Chhouk Meas Market, in western Phnom Penh’s Sen Sok district, prices of a number of goods have started to creep up as Pchum Ben approaches, Hak Lai Hiek tells The Post as she packs vegetables and fish into plastic bags at her stall for a customer with a cheerful smile adorning her face.
Demand for fish, meat and vegetables will increase significantly as the time comes for customers to prepare offerings for monks, she says.
By September 20, the price of “chhlaing” catfish (Hemibagrus nemurus) had risen to 50,000 riel ($12.50) per kg, rising by 5,000-10,000 riel from the normal rate, according to Lai Hiek.
Chicken and pork have not seen any remarkable changes in prices, she notes.
On the other hand, she admits that she sells fish “at higher prices because I splurge more on them, and transport from the provinces is more expensive”.
And to the east at a typical grocery shop near Dey Hoy market in the same district, owner So Thea says the prices of all his merchandise has remained constant, motioning towards a box of instant noodles which kept its 19,000 riel price tag.
“I’m hearing most buyers say the same thing – that commodity prices are always higher during all major national festivals. But as I see it, if we [vendors] buy at higher rates, we will sell accordingly, because if we don’t, we’ll lose money, but prices cannot be raised too much either,” he says.
During the first Covid-era Pchum Ben last year, Thea’s best-sellers were instant noodles, canned fish, drinking water and other beverages, incense and candles, he points out.
But now, “a few days before the Kan Ben-Pchum Ben ceremonies, my shop is not selling as much as in other years, maybe next week sales will pick up as people start to cook for Kan Ben festivals at pagodas”, he enthuses with a slight chuckle.
Cambodia Livestock Raisers Association president Srun Pov tells The Post that demand for meat during the half-month would be marginally higher than usual, but that prices would not rise sharply.
“As things are shaping up, during the Pchum Ben season, I guarantee that the wholesale price of meat will not go up,” he says, noting that some sellers may take advantage of the occasion and raise their rates.
He notes that the wholesale price of live hogs per kg is currently in the 12,000-13,000 riel ballpark. This is a bit lower than the 13,500-14,500 riel range Pov quoted in February-March.
Pov also emphasises that there would be enough meat available domestically to cover everyone’s Pchum Ben-related needs.