Food prices rising in Japan, cooking oil up 1.5-fold on year

Food manufacturers in Japan have been hiking prices as a result of rising raw material and crude oil costs, data showed Monday, dealing a blow to households already hit by the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.

The average price of cooking oil at supermarkets across the country spiked 1.5-fold in May from a year earlier, while that of mayonnaise was up nearly 30 percent, according to Japanese analysis company True Data Inc.

Raw material and crude oil costs have risen in line with higher demand as economies recover from the coronavirus pandemic and due to global supply chain disruptions. Japan has also seen the cost of imported products rise due to the yen's depreciation against the U.S. dollar and other major currencies.

While supermarket operators decide the price of products sold at stores, many of them have passed on rising costs from food manufacturers to customers due to the difficulty of absorbing price hikes.

The prices of margarine products, spaghetti and white bread spiked by about 10 percent, according to True Data.

In about a year since spring last year, Nisshin Oillio Group Ltd., a producer of edible oil, has hiked costs five times and its rival J-Oil Mills Inc. has raised prices between five and six times.

As a result, the price of edible oil increased from 213 yen ($1.5) per liter to 323 yen.

A bottle of mayonnaise, with about 400 to 450 grams of content, increased in price from 175 yen to 226 yen.

A recovery in demand following the pandemic has also contributed to pushing up grain prices, with 600 grams of spaghetti rising from 256 yen to 292 yen and a kilogram of wheat increasing 9.0 percent from 233 yen to 254 yen, according to the data.

However, private-sector economists believe food prices will continue to rise as the outlook of Russia's war in Ukraine remains uncertain and the yen's weakness will swell import costs.

"Food and other prices will continue to increase until the impact of the weak yen and high crude oil prices could subside as early as this fall," said Koya Miyamae, a senior economist at SMBC Nikko Securities Inc.

© Kyodo News