The issue of high food prices continues to be furiously debated in Barbados. To be expected much of the debate is tainted with partisan political rhetoric. The government ran a political platform during the last general election based on a promise, one of many, to Barbadians to reduce food prices. The reality is Barbados was in the lag period of a looming global recession but it did not deter many Barbadians from believing a magic wand was all that would have been required to right the problem.
Several factors in recent months have had the effect of negatively impacting food prices on the world market. Barbados imports almost all of its food and therefore this makes the business of food security a top priority. BU agrees food prices are controlled by external forces but there is a level of efficiency which must be managed internally to ensure Barbadian consumers benefit from the best price.
Earlier we discussed on another blog Breaking The Stranglehold On High Prices Will Call For A Holistic Strategy. What came out in the discussion, to the surprise of some, was the reason the ministry of commerce discontinued publishing the prices of staple products sold by leading retailers in Barbados. BU has confirmed from a reliable source the ministry has no budget to support the initiative of publishing food prices. It seems paradoxical that a government who has as its number one priory reducing the cost of living cannot not exercise budget ‘cleverness’ by allocating a relatively small sum to support the effort of officers in the ministry of commerce, harsh economic times notwithstanding. Again BU is reliably informed that the ministry of commerce has about 10 officers who are mobilized from time to time to check prices on shelves across Barbados. Unfortunately the output of their activities will remain secreted on the desks of bureaucrats in the various government departments.
The point which cannot be easily proven but is known in some quarters has to do with the modus operandi of some local leading wholesalers/importers. Many source cheap goods or goods at a cheap price in the USA and forward to companies in the USA for onward shipping to Barbados. Guess who owns the companies in the USA forwarding the good? Guess if the accuracy of the information listed on import documents which are inspected by local Customs Officers are truly accurate?
The practice of mamaguying Barbados when it comes to food prices has been occurring for many years. BU has been told some of our technocrats at the Central Bank are aware of the practice of invoice manipulation. Who will be so bold as to challenge the elite in Barbados by confronting them with their own unethical and dishonest behaviour? Of course rising pricing are greatly influenced by what happens in the global commodities market but it does not mean we have to add to the final price because of inefficiency in customs, excessive port of authority handling charges, manipulation of invoicing of goods and other corrupt practices.
Disappointing has been BU’s experience investigating this matter, the silence by those who understand what has been occurring over the years has been deafening. Nobody wants to confront our respectable Captains of Industry who are all satisfied to pay $625.00 to be members of the Barbados Chamber of Commerce and get the chance of blaming small players who operate on the outside of this elite organization.
BU invites Barbadians who have the time to submit a list of prices of five to ten staple products consumed by the average Bajan family at a minimum of five leading supermarkets e.g. Supercentre, Emerald City, Popular, Tri-mart, Channel, Jordans. BU will update for discussion.