Business

Some rising prices should be taken with a grain of salt

by Cory Baird

Staff Writer

For the first time in almost three decades the Salt Industry Center of Japan has announced it will raise the price on many of its products by around 15 percent, indicating inflation has finally arrived in at least some industries.

“Costs have been rising for a long period of time so this year we finally had to raise the price,” a spokesperson for the center said Tuesday in a phone call with The Japan Times.

The organization, which sells a salt shaker found on many Japanese kitchen tables and restaurants, said that in April the price for a 300-gram pack of table salt will rise to ¥153, from ¥144.

Other prominent food suppliers appear to be following a similar path. On Monday, Nippon Flour Mills Co. announced it will increase prices for flour by 1 to 3 percent in January.

But despite these price hikes, the overall economy remains mired in sluggish inflation.

According to the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry, the core consumer price index, excluding the effects of volatile energy and food, inched up by only 0.4 percent in September on a year-on-year basis.

Bank of Japan Gov. Haruhiko Kuroda, who has led an unprecedented effort to stoke inflation, has long maintained that a deeply entrenched aversion to price increases is the culprit behind Japan’s low prices.

Highlighting its continued sensitivity to customers, the Salt Industry Center of Japan’s ubiquitous 100-gram white-and-red salt shaker is not part of this round of price increases.

Yet recent developments indicate that consumers may be more willing to accept price increases, at least in some circumstances.

Yosuke Yasui, a senior economist with the Japan Research Institute, explained that the key is for people to also see fatter paychecks, which would help them bear these costs.

“Recent price increases appear to be supported through increased consumption, which is a positive sign,” Yasui said.