With Vietnam’s Mid-Autumn Festival just around the corner, mooncake producers and traders are jacking up their prices despite fears that price hikes might lead to lower-than-usual demand.
Along many streets in Ho Chi Minh City, particularly Phan Dang Luu in Binh Thanh District and Pham Van Dong in Thu Duc City, mooncake stands are already set up for the festive season.
In just the few days of running a Kinh Do mooncake stand on Phan Dang Luu in Binh Thanh, Ho Thi Bong has already begun to fear that price increases of VND1,000-4,000 (US$0.04-0.17) might lead to shrinking demand as the festival draws nearer.
The total price of a mooncake at Bong’s stall fetches VND55,000-390,000 ($2.4-17).
“The increase is not large, but I am worried about a decline in demand resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic," Bong said.
“Many people have seen their incomes fall so we seem to only be selling a moderate number of cakes.”
Similarly, a representative of a Nhu Lan mooncake stand in District 1 shared that its price hike of VND4,000-10,000 ($0.17-0.43) could spell disaster.
Such a rise, according to the representative, is induced by the increased cost of ingredients.
Mooncakes at Nhu Lan are now on sale for VND50,000-750,000 ($2-32) apiece, or VND240,000-1 million ($10-43) per box.
Wholesale customers are typically offered a 5-10 percent discount.
The five-star Sheraton Saigon Hotel has been less shy about pushing high-priced mooncakes.
Mooncakes produced by the hotel, many of which are stuffed with luxury fillings such as scallops, lotus seeds, and taro, are quoted at VND1.3-2.8 million ($56-120) per box.
Though the hotel expects to sell tens of thousands of cakes this festive season, it admits that it is keeping a close eye on market developments.
Nguyen Thi Thu Thuy, owner of a Dong Khanh mooncake production plant in Long An Province, just outside Ho Chi Minh City, told Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper on Wednesday that she was selling mooncakes for VND60,000-130,000 ($2.6-5.6) each, a year-on-year rise of VND2,000-6,000 ($0.09-0.26).
Price increases are minimal compared to the 15 percent spike in production cost, but plunges in demand are still a serious worry, Thuy said.
“At present, we only have a small number of customers," she added.
"Our number of mooncake outlets has also shrunk.
“Our corporate customer base has declined 40-50 percent compared to previous years.”
The Mid-Autumn Festival, which falls on the 15th day of the eighth month on the lunar calendar, is among Vietnam’s most popular celebrations and mooncakes are considered an indispensable part of the fest.
Despite concerns, the mooncake market has bounced back compared to the sluggish sales recorded during the past two years of COVID-19.