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Inflation hits China's most popular instant noodles

December 15, 2010 |  5:55 am

Photo: A pack of Master Kong beef-flavored noodles at a Beijing supermarket. Credit: David Pierson / Los Angeles Times Master Kong instant noodle soup hits all the right notes on the Chinese palette: sublimely salty, excessively oily and spiked with dried chilies. It’s the go-to meal for those short of time or money.
But the country's most popular packaged noodle soup has become another symbol of China's worsening inflation.

News reports earlier this week say Kangshifu, as the noodles are known here, were no longer available at Carrefour, the French mega-mart chain and the world's second-largest retailer, which operates 169 stores in China.

The reason? The Taiwanese noodle brand wanted to raise prices about 3 cents to 33 cents to cover the rising cost of raw materials such as edible oils.
Carrefour refused. The company, like its main rival in China, Wal-Mart, have been under pressure from China's central government to hold prices on necessities for fear too much of an increase will spark populist rage.

The soaring cost of food is already a daily lament for many Chinese. Prices of everyday vegetables have more than doubled in some parts of China in recent months. Analysts blame poor harvests, rising demand, speculators and commodity hoarders.

Food prices, on average, rose 11.7% in November, driving China's inflation rate to a 28-month high of 5.1%.

More conflicts like the noodle spat are expected with food producers unable to pass growing costs on to consumers.

Already some edible-oil producers have reportedly stopped production after the central government forbade them to raise prices.

-- David Pierson

Photo: A pack of Master Kong beef-flavored noodles at a Beijing supermarket. Credit: David Pierson / Los Angeles Times

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