The government launched two six-month "Employment Support Schemes” last year to support businesses hard hit by the COVID-19 epidemic. The two major supermarket groups PARKnSHOP and Wellcome each received more than $100 million subsidies under the second phase of this Scheme and promised to offer more discounts and concessions. However, six months passed on, the latest supermarket prices of some popular commodities are even more expensive that makes the general public lives harder.
The Supermarket Price Concern Group (the Group) has been monitoring 21 items essential for daily life since August last year. In the press conference today, the DAB Deputy Secretary and Convenor of the Group Frankie NGAN together with members Mr. WU Cheuk-him, Mr. CHAN Hoi-wing and Ms. SZE Bun-bun reported an analysis of price changes in supermarkets for the last six months. When it compares the prices collected on Sept 23, 2020, the next day of the supermarket groups’ successful application of the second phase of the Scheme, with the data on Mar 5,2021, the "price index" of PARKnSHOP increased from 622.8 to 628.7 while Wellcome’s remained unchanged at 636.9. However, when look into the product price, the Group found that PARKnSHOP has a total of 13 items with price increased while Wellcome has 5. The price hikes of some popular cleaning products are especially alarming.
Although one of the major supermarket groups had earlier distributed cash coupons as a form of rebate for the underprivileged, neither the number of beneficiaries nor the duration of this coupon scheme were sufficient. Another supermarket group had promoted a "price lock" as a form of additional rebate, but some of its popular products had quietly increased in price that the public did not "save" much money. Frankie NGAN said that supermarket groups had received a huge amount of government subsidies so should they have a conscience and earn less to tide over this difficult period alongside the public and enact their social responsibility.
In addition, there is always only one supermarket group operating in a district or a housing estate under the management of the Housing Department, which is difficult for the public to compare prices. The HD should introduce competition when considering relevant tenancy agreements to avoid supermarket monopoly.