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Industry, Investment and Commerce Minister, Karl Samuda, has said that consumers should begin to see a significant reduction in the prices of basic food items over the next six to eight weeks.
This is based on an undertaking given by representatives of the distributive trade, with whom the Minister met at the Ministry on October 24. The meeting was convened, in light of concerns raised regarding reported marginal decreases in the prices of basic commodities, relative to the global reductions of as much as 10 per cent in some instances.
Speaking at a media briefing at the Ministry’s New Kingston offices following the meeting, Mr. Samuda told journalists that the Ministry had anticipated that the price reductions would have been more significant than what currently obtains.
“Indeed, in all but one instance, counter flour, all of the 13 basic commodity items have actually shown a marginal increase in prices, in a survey that was conducted up to the middle of October, which were marginally above those of September,” the Minister said.
He pointed out that the distributors acknowledged that the price reductions have been slow, but attributed this to several factors. These, he outlined, include: the stock levels of certain items, which they had; and the extent to which those items would have to “work their way through the system.”
“But, what they have indicated, is that within the next six to eight weeks, we should begin to see a dramatic reduction in the prices, consistent with the reduction in the overseas prices that they have to pay for the products,” Mr. Samuda informed.
He advised that the reductions in global prices, based on data provided by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) website, range from a high of 10 per cent for wheat and seven per cent for soya beans, to two per cent and one per cent for rice and maize, respectively. He noted that while reductions in local prices have been slow in coming, the average weighted price on basic items, had decreased from 3.2 per cent in September to 1.5 per cent this month.
“If this trend continues, then it is not unreasonable for us to expect a reduction of between eight and 10 per cent of the price of the products,” Mr. Samuda said.
However, the Minister pointed out that consumers should not expect to see any price reduction in mackerel and corned beef during this period, due to certain factors currently impacting these items.
“There is a shortage of mackerel on the world market, and as a result, it is not likely that the price will be decreasing over the short to medium term. The distributors are still hoping that it will. But, at the moment, the projection, based on the information available to the distributive trade, is that the price of that particular product is going to continue to be fairly high,” the Minister explained.
Regarding corned beef, Mr. Samuda said factors like mad cow disease, a growth in global demand for the product, and low output, would prove challenging to make the item available to consumers at a reduced cost.
“The distributors have undertaken, in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture, to source the best supplies of canned beef (and) other items of beef base that can be imported into the country, so that our people can benefit from the best prices that are available,” the Minister informed.