Citing the need to regulate the latest price hikes in basic commodities, government is taking steps to help cushion the impact on consumers.
Towards this end, government has announced plans to cushion the cost of essential commodities, such as; rice, sugar, and flour.
Commerce Minister Emma Hippolyte stated that global price hikes are primarily linked to high shipping cost.
“The Ministry of Commerce has responsibility for the importation of rice, flour and sugar into this country and… now the price of sugar and rice have exceeded the cost that we are retailing it to you,” the minister said.
“So right now the government is cushioning the increases of these basic commodities,” Hippolyte told a news conference on Wednesday.
The Minister stated that the biggest challenge for the authorities is sourcing the commodities.
She explained that price and supply stability have been affected, resulting in delivery delays and an increase in the time frame for ordering the commodities.
“The price hike is already here. When you go to the supermarket you can do the comparison yourself,” declared Hippolyte.
She said that ministry personnel have completed a “preliminary analysis” and will continue with that exercise.
“We have had significant conversations with the Chamber of Commerce and the National Consumers Association on that issue,” Hippolyte noted.
She added, “It is a very important issue for Saint Lucia because it impacts the whole issue of food security. So, you can see there are certain basic products that prices are just going up and when you listen to the international news and based on the analysis that we have done, one of the key factors is the high cost of shipping.”
She revealed that based on the analysis, a 40-foot container from China at one time cost some US$ 3000.
“Now it has reached about $15,000. So you can see the type of increase and how it impacts not only Saint Lucia, but how it impacts the supply chain worldwide and consequently irrespective of where the item is being ordered you will get an increase in your freight and in the cost of the item,” said Hippolyte.
“So if the cost of the raw material is high then the cost of the finished product is going to be high so that is what is impacting us,” she asserts.
Hippolyte at the same time, urged Saint Lucians to buy locally produced goods, although acknowledging that the goods may sometimes cost more than the imported product.
“But I want you to make that comparison that when I purchase this product here, I am supporting the employment of another Saint Lucian,” Hippolyte told reporters.
The commerce minister stated that there is no need to panic as consumers had observed a shortage in basic foodstuffs over the past weeks.
She said government is employing a systematic approach to the situation, and are distributing basic commodities to the market place to mitigate ‘panic buying’.
“We have a producer of flour, right here in Vieux Fort …and for sugar and rice we have the government with that responsibility,” the minister explained.
Hippolyte added that as much as possible, government tries “to ensure that we have in the warehouse. What we are doing …is we don’t put everything on the shelf and people go and purchase all.”
The minister assured the public that there will not be a scarcity in the availability of basic commodities. However, she advised the public to be economical with their spending.
“Some of us might have the money to purchase all, but remember our neighbor might not have the money to purchase all,” Hippolyte said. “So we are giving the commitment that we will source the items for you …and please leave something for your neighbor.”
She noted that it is an opportune time to invest locally and desist from depending so heavily on imported goods.
However, while the minister assured that “nothing is going to run short”, she said her concern was that, “in St Lucia …we need to think about food security: eating what we grow and growing what we eat.” (RA)