Opinion: Breaking down Phuket food prices

Prakong Rukwong, 56, from Songkhla, is the chief of the Office of Commercial Affairs in Phuket. He graduated from Ramkhamhaeng University with a Bachelor’s degree in international economics, and also earned a Bachelor’s in law from Sukhothai Thammathirat Open University. From there, he continued on to earn a Master’s degree in economics at Chiang Mai University.

Here, he talks about why Phuket’s living costs are so much higher than other provinces.

PHUKET: I will admit that living costs in Phuket are higher than in other provinces, especially prices of food in restaurants.

However, I believe most restaurants do their best to keep their prices as reasonable as possible. Cheaper prices will bring in more customers, and a lot of customers are good for business.

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Those that purchase fresh ingredients every day will want to sell all of their food so that they don’t have to keep it overnight. It is wasteful – financially and otherwise – to have raw ingredients go bad.

Even though these business people try to keep prices of meals in their restaurants down, Phuket prices are still higher than most other provinces in Thailand.

There are quite a few reasons for this, and they all affect each other.

First, rent in Phuket is high because land prices are high. A lot of people come here to work, and if they do, they must be willing to pay higher rent to stay. Goods and services will therefore be more expensive, as Phuket residents need to be able to make enough money to cover rent.

Also, Phuket is a well-known tourist destination. Foreign tourists who come to Phuket can afford higher prices, so vendors and business people will naturally want to charge more.

Lastly, whenever the minimum wage increases, as it does, prices will increase as a result.

During the past five years, the prices of meals have increased 5 to 15 baht, which is about 14 to 40 per cent. Fifteen baht may not sound like much to some people but if you think about it, 15 extra baht per meal can quickly add up.

Unlike restaurant prices, the prices of groceries are controlled by the Department of Internal Trade and are standardized throughout the country. They tend to stay stable. Right now, however, grocery stores in Phuket are not doing well.

They are having to compete with convenience stores, which are open for longer hours and offer products for lower prices.

Water prices are the same. They do not change much, as there are many competitors in the bottled water industry. These prices are on par with other provinces in the country.

If someone chooses to live in Phuket, he or she must be able to cope with a higher cost of living.

This does not mean that all restaurants on the island are expensive or that all accommodation has a higher rental cost. There will still be places where one can find cheap food or rent.

We want to make this clear to everyone here, which is why we have brought dozens of restaurants on to be ‘Cheap Shops’, selling plates of food for 40 baht or less.

This way, people can know where they can find affordable food on Phuket.

We want to provide this option for those who have a hard time affording anything more expensive.

Our office cannot do much about restaurant prices. They are allowed to price as they wish as long as they list the amount clearly on the menu or elsewhere where people can see it. It is then up to the customers whether or not they want to eat there.

If someone ever feels as though he is being overcharged for a meal, he can inform us by visiting our office on Montri Road in Phuket Town; by calling 076-212017; or by visiting https://pcoc.moc.go.th/wappPCOC/83/. (The website is in Thai language.)

There are so many restaurant options on Phuket that cater to all different budgets – enjoy it.

— Chutharat Plerin


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