(Barbados Nation) The Barbados government says merchants are ripping off consumers with food prices and has vowed to increase the number of inspectors monitoring price movements.
“We have found the evidence,” reported Minister of Trade and Commerce Senator Haynesley Benn.
“People are jacking up prices indiscriminately.”
And he produced evidence of price increases in several food items collected by the Ministry’s Trading Standards Inspectors (formerly Price Control Inspectors) during routine checks of supermarkets and businesses over the last three or four weeks.
The minister told the NATION last Tuesday: “A lot of the supermarkets have said they have not done anything, that they have not moved their prices up since December, but there are a lot of commodities that I have randomly checked and there has been movement in a lot of commodities.”
Benn’s statement followed a challenge last week from president of the Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Andy Armstrong to Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs Chris Sinckler to produce evidence that businesses, particularly supermarkets, were ripping off Barbadians with indiscriminate price hikes on food items.
“We have the evidence and the evidence will be produced,” Benn said.
“We know where the commodities are being sold. We are not here to embarrass anybody, but having been challenged by the president of the Chamber of Commerce, we have found the evidence.”
The minister, referring to reports from inspectors, detailed examples of significant increases in the price of items such as stew beef which he said had retailed at Bds$11.79 per kilogram at the beginning of November last year before the VAT hike, but had moved to Bds$19.30 at the end of November, fallen to Bds$14.99 at the beginning of December and risen again to Bds$22.75 at the end of December.
Also, two kilograms of Bajan Pride Flour sold at Bds$4.99 at the beginning of November, increased to Bds$6.05 at the end of November and rose to Bds$7.50 by the end of December after the VAT had been added.
Other items such as red seedless grapes and macaroni were also among the food items which the minister said had seen exorbitant increases in price.
Benn said it was proposed to increase the number of trading standard inspectors in the field whom he said would be required to report on the movement of prices on a weekly basis.
He, however, challenged consumer bodies to be more proactive.
He also challenged the Barbados Association of Retired Persons (BARP) to use its power to become a more effective consumer advocate.
Benn disclosed plans to resume publishing a list of commodity prices collected by the inspectors to assist consumers in shopping around for the best prices.