In light of the recent increase in cost for basic food items, the Saint Lucia National Consumer Association (SLNCA) said it is deeply concerned and is calling on government to urgently review the list of controlled items.
Vice President of the SLNCA Mathias Polius told St Lucia News Online (SNO) today, August. 7, that consumers are feeling the brunt of the price increases.
“The current list of controlled items as it is, is clearly outdated. There are for example on the list, a number of items that are controlled, but they are not of sizes purchased by the average consumer,” he explained.
Oil for example is price controlled but only the half-litre bottle is controlled. Polouis said consumers hardly purchase that specific size of product.
“You also find that tuna fish is controlled but it is only the very small tin, toothpaste is controlled but again it’s only the small tube. Bread is also controlled to a certain extent, but the kind of bread we eat right now that has price control, is not as significant as it should be. Our taste have changed, people are moving on and we are getting modernised and the price-control listing have to change with the times,” the SLNCA official said.
Only yesterday, the Bakers Association published a new price list for decontrolled white bread and whole wheat bread with increases. However, Polius said the increase is not necessary, even though the subsidy has been removed from flour.
“I have a concern about that… so are you telling me because you changed the shape of a loaf bread that it moves from being price-controlled to being set at whatever price?” he asked.
The association’s vice president argued that the same ingredients used to make hamburger bread are the same used to make the bread with controlled prices. He therefore reiterated the need to have this list of controlled items reviewed urgently with the aim of making it relevant with what is taking place now.
“Only through this mechanism can prices for certain basic food be changed to suit the pockets of consumers,” he added.
The Saint Lucia Labour Party government has removed subsidy on brown sugar. The price per pound of brown sugar was 90 cents, but will now be $1. This is a total reduction of $1 million in government subsidy.
Some other grocery items which consumers bought tax-free in the past are now attracting 15 percent Value Added Tax (VAT) as well. These include fish, butter, margarine and beans, not including lentils and pigeon peas.