Consumers today will find that many food products and other commodities have risen in price. The first wave of price rises in 2008 has come to store shelves and is expected to reach up to 15.4 percent, making the already heavy burden on consumers even heavier. Thirty companies are hiking their prices on over 200 products in roughly 40 different categories. The new prices will gradually be phased in between today and February 9. Once again there are quite steep rises, far above inflation, in food, all stationary goods and even soap. And this is only the beginning, as companies constantly send new price lists to the Development Ministry. On the other hand, companies have been very slow to respond to the ministry’s request for explanations regarding price hikes above inflation. Having already ascertained its inability to directly intervene in the operation of the market, the political leadership of the ministry is planning new meetings with market organizations in the following days to assess the overall situation, ministry sources indicated. It remains to be seen whether the ministry intends to implement other ideas for handling the situation, apart from December’s «gentlemen’s agreements» that now appear to have had little impact. Deputy Development Minister Giorgos Vlachos said recently that if prices continued to rise, «we may be forced to resort to other ideas.» He did not clarify what he had in mind. Prices will increase in a total of 14 food categories by February 9, from 0.7 percent to 15.4 percent. Some categories already saw two or three hikes in 2007 (i.e. cheese). Milk, yogurt, deserts, cream etc are going up from 0.7 percent to 7.14 percent, cheese will rise by 8.18 percent, juice by 3.5-4.7 percent and so on. Products such as napkins (8.5 percent), tissues (10 percent) garbage bags (10 percent) and the like are also going up. One of the biggest price increases will be soap, with some products rising by as much as 14 percent. Market professionals attribute the increases to annual price growth or the rising cost of fuel and raw materials (e.g. grain).