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Ahead of the onset of the Ramadhan fasting month, Indonesia's Trade Ministry has called for the food stability task force to be vigilant on hoarding of staple foods and take strict action against miscreants.

Trade Ministry director general for the domestic trade sector, Tjahya Widayanti, said the task force is assigned to trace the source of supply and see that the prices of staple food should not soar beyond levels set by the government. "If the price increase occurs at the distributors, we will check whether they are registered," she said on Sunday as quoted by Antara News agency.

Under the trade ministerial decree, distributors and warehouses must be registered and declare their stocks to the government every 15th of each month. Tjahya said should traders not comply with the requirements; actions would be taken, which could begin with an administrative measure.

Based on checks in Rau wholesale market in Serang, Banten and other markets, prices of food commodities have exceeded the retail price set by the government. Among the items were eggs, chicken, and bird's eye chilies were affected by the price hike while rice, sugar, cooking oil, and beef maintained its prices as the supply was currently stable.

On May 13, Jakarta Post reported that consumers were already hit with the pre-Ramadhan staple food hike with prices surging up to about 50% across North Sumatra.

Price checks on various markets by the ministry saw the red chili taking a 50% hike in price from Rp 18,000 to Rp24,000 while carrots and tomatoes were sold 60% above ceiling price of Rp 6,000.

Traditional markets in Medan faced shortages of red chili supplies as distributors prefer sending their commodity to Batam, Padang and Pekanbaru which caused the surged in prices.

At Bakti traditional market in Medan, price increase affected all types of chilies.

Red chili prices increased to Rp 28,000 per kg from Rp 24,000 while green chili and bird's eye chili were selling at Rp 14,000 and Rp 25,000 per kilogram respectively.