Premier Wen Jiabao has ordered local governments to crack down on merchants who deliberately stock up on food products or release false information to drive up prices. Mr Wen, who inspected an open market in Beijing yesterday, said stabilising food supplies and prices was vital to national development. The central government had already issued a series of measures and he believed soaring prices of pork and other foods would soon be brought back to normal. But local governments had to act against the manipulation of prices. 'Over the past two months, the overall prices of our consumer products have recorded significant increases. The reason is mainly because of [the shortage] of pork and other food products,' Mr Wen was quoted by Xinhua as saying. 'But it is also because some businessmen have collaborated with each other and deliberately pushed up the prices. 'This has disrupted the market mechanism and damaged the public's interests.' Mr Wen said local government ought to 'immediately' launch food-price inspections and punish those who tried to rig the market. 'Those who stock up on food products and release fabricated information to drive up food prices must be dealt with strictly,' he said. '[Local authorities] must regularly inspect their markets to maintain good order and safeguard food safety and public health.' The premier also announced several other measures, including the provision of financial help and subsidies to encourage crop cultivation and pig breeding. Local governments have been told to allocate more resources to food production, purchasing, storage and distribution. 'Related departments must ensure a constant and stable supply of food products to the market,' Mr Wen said. He promised the central government would help poor families and those in rural and western regions cope with the rising prices. 'We will raise monthly pensions, increase the minimum salary levels and offer temporary financial subsidies to ensure the living standard [of low-income families] will not be affected,' he said. It was the third time in a week that the premier had spoken out on rising food prices and the need to help low-income groups. Last week, he held a State Council meeting to discuss pork supplies and announced measures to help pig farmers. On Thursday, Mr Wen chaired another State Council meeting and pledged to help poor families overwhelmed by rising living costs and widening wealth gaps. Food prices on the mainland surged 11.3 per cent year on year in June due to a leap of nearly 60 per cent in the cost of pork and increases of more than 30 per cent in the cost of other staples, National Bureau of Statistics figures show.