The price of flour sold by National Flour Mills (NFM) will be the subject of discussions today when Trade Minister Paula Gopee-Scoon meets senior officials from the company.
The meeting, called by Gopee-Scoon, follows a suggestion by NFM CEO Kelvin Mahabir that flour prices could go up next year because of the rise in wheat prices on the global market.
Speaking briefly with Newsday, the minister said, “The chairman (Nigel Roman), CEO and possibly a couple of executives will be in attendance. We have a good working relationship, so I look forward to a productive meeting.”
The parties will meet at 3.30 pm at the minister’s office, Nicholas Tower, Independence Square, Port of Spain.
Mahabir is reported as saying that if wheat prices maintain their upward trend, NFM would no longer be able to absorb the higher price of raw ingredients – wheat accounts for 60 percent to 65 percent of the company’s total imports. NFM last raised prices in 2008.
NFM has also been paying more for transportation since October, when Government reduced the diesel subsidy, as well as paying more to obtain US dollars with which it pays for wheat imports.
Mahabir said an increase was something to be considered, if not, there would be significant pressure on the company.
Hours after the article was published, the ministry issued a strongly worded statement expressing disappointment with Mahabir’s comments.
“Over the years the Government (has maintained) a facilitative working relationship with NFM...As such, the public dissemination of the likelihood of an increase in flour prices without any prior discussion is wholly unacceptable,” the Trade Ministry said in a statement.
Although NFM’s unaudited financial statements for the nine months ended September 30, 2017 showed a 23 percent decline in profitability, the ministry said the company “has still been able to meet its financial obligations and maintain a satisfactory cash flow position.”
It is the mandate of the minister that NFM place specific emphasis on penetrating foreign markets, new product development, reviewing hedging policies, improving cost structure by revising contractual arrangements and process efficiencies in all of its the business segments.
“The Government is mindful of NFM’s responsibility to all its shareholders to be profitable. However, given the widespread implications that will undoubtedly arise, price adjustments will not be supported at this time,” the Trade Ministry stated.