PANAMA CITY, Dec 17 (Reuters) - Panama will extend by six months food price controls on 22 basic products in an effort to keep inflation low and boost the purchasing power of lower-income shoppers, the government said on Wednesday.
President Juan Carlos Varela authorized the initial controls after taking office in July. The move was widely seen as an attack on his predecessor Ricardo Martinelli, a one-time ally turned antagonist, who owns one of Panama's largest supermarket chains.
Varela's trade and industry minister Meliton Arrocha said the government would not hesitate to add more products to the list if "reasonable" prices do not prevail.
The products currently covered include staples such as beans, chicken, rice and powdered milk.
Consumer prices in Panama dipped 0.3 percent in November while annual inflation this year is forecast at 3 percent. (Reporting by Elida Moreno; Editing by Paul Tait)