Ahead of Lunar New Year, Thailand’s poor feel sting of inflation

Instead of raising the cost of a dish, noodle seller Yajai is putting less pork in her bowls – a cutback forced by the surging price of Thai pigs following an outbreak of African swine flu.

In a nearby alley, a fruit seller cuts smaller pieces of papaya, guava and pineapple to avoid passing on rising prices to her regulars.

The cost of eggs, cooking oil, gas and chicken have also shot up, baffling small business owners across Pratunam, a working-class, Thai-Chinese neighborhood in downtown Bangkok.

“My costs are up by 20 percent since the start of the year,” Yajai told Al Jazeera. “Coconut milk, cooking oil, even the wonton wrappers … I’ve never seen anything like this where everything goes up at once,” she said. “It doesn’t make any sense.”

As the Lunar New Year festival looms – a time when families normally spend liberally and small businesses get their first bounce of the year – Thais are being battered by inflation.

That is leaving poorer households short of money after two years of pandemic-crunched incomes, small businesses leaking profit – and an unpopular government scrambling for a fix.

Economists say surging global oil prices have raised costs across supply chains, including Thai production lines and transport networks for key goods such as animal feed.

But in a perfect storm, Thai authorities earlier this month announced swine flu had hit the kingdom’s nearly 20 million pigs, threatening mass culls and prompting bans on pork imports by Taiwan and Cambodia.

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