WHILE many grapple with rising food prices, Minister of Agriculture, Land and Fisheries Clarence Rambharat said being a smaller country has made it difficult for Trinidad and Tobago to compete in the market.
He was speaking on Saturday at the formal presentation to Price Club Supermarket with the Supermarket Association's (SATT) independent supermarket of the year award 2021, Trinidad category. The ceremony was held at the supermarket's Ramsaran Street, Chaguanas compound.
The SATT awards is in its 27th year and Xtra Foods was awarded the People’s Choice supermarket chain of the year 2021 award and the Independent Supermarket of the Year award 2021 in the Tobago category was awarded to Viewport Supermarket.
Rambharat said global food prices were influenced by a number of factors including the pandemic, difficulties in the rising cost of shipping as result of the availability of vessels and containers and being a small state.
“The other aspect of the shipping has to do with some of the countries in the world being able to dominate the market for shipping, being able to place order, being able to move bulk/cargo. As a smaller country it is difficult to compete with the shipping.”
Rambharat added that climate factors also heavily influenced the demand and supply for goods, and it was usually beyond the control of any government.
Regardless, Rambharat said farmers have been able to substantially provide food for the population during the pandemic and more effort should be placed on eating locally.
He said, “We have gone through covid19 and up to now we have largely been able to get the fruits and vegetables from our farmers for our day-to-day use. Prices are seasonal.
“The point is that if you are going to depend on expensive, highly processed foreign foods for your daily consumption, you are going to have to confront obesity, weight increase, body pains, problems breathing, earlier hospitalisation and a problem with living as long as your grandparents.”
SATT president Rajiv Diptee said last week that TT continues to remain an import-dependent country because supermarkets cannot replace fast moving consumer goods with items that would stay for long periods. He also called for Government to assist the agricultural sector, farmers and end users to move away from import products that were costly to local substitutes.
Diptee also said that the value-added tax (VAT) removal implemented on November 1, was of no help to anyone given the latest round of food increases across different sectors.
National Flour Mills and Nutrimix announced flour price increases, Carib Brewery, Kiss Baking Co. Ltd and Nestle also raised prices on certain products, and chicken and livestock producers and distributors also increased prices.