Stakeholders warn of gas price impact on fish prices, construction costs, SMEs

A fisherman pulls his catch to shore after removing it from his boat the Carenage Fishing Centre on Saturday. - SUREASH CHOLAI
A fisherman pulls his catch to shore after removing it from his boat the Carenage Fishing Centre on Saturday. - SUREASH CHOLAI

Higher fish prices, escalating construction costs and smaller returns for gas stations are among the forecast effects of fuel price increases which take effect on April 19, stakeholders said on Saturday.

In the House of Representatives on Friday, Finance Minister Colm Imbert announced an increase in fuel prices. He said the price of premium gasoline and super gasoline will be adjusted by $1 per litre to $6.75 and $5.97, respectively. The price of diesel will be increased by 50 cents to $3.91 per litre and the price of kerosene will be increased by $2 from $1.50 to $3.50 per litre.

As a result, fishermen say the higher fish prices may become the norm if the price of diesel increases any further.

One man who has been fishing for 30 years said he and the other fishermen at the Cocorite Fishing Depot already did not catch enough fish to cover the cost of fuel so the 50 cents increase was significant.

“We didn’t expect it but we have to take it because we still have a family to mind. It’s like you expect a certain amount in your salary and at the end of the month they just decide to cut it.”

He explained that TT waters did not have the volume of fish as in previous years and there were a lot more boats in the waters so individual fishermen were catching fewer fish. Also, they burned a lot of fuel hunting for live bait and then for the fish. In addition, they had to change their engines' oil and filters every 300 hours which cost around $1,500.

He said since it was Easter and fish prices were high, around $50 per pound for king fish and $45 for carite, the increase would not affect them too badly. However, once Easter has passed and fish prices decrease, they would not be able to make a decent living.

A crewman fills up a tug boat with diesel at the NP gas station at Island Property Owners marina in Chaguaramas on Saturday. - SUREASH CHOLAI

“When gas goes up on April 19, people should expect fish prices to go up too.”

Sean Phillip, a fisherman for 24 years, said he and others at the Carenage Fishing Centre spent $1,000 or more in gas during a fishing trip as they usually have to search for their catch.

“Gas (diesel) keeps going up but fish prices fluctuate. When Easter finishes and the price drops, fishermen will be working at a loss. I mean, everyone kind of expected the increase (in fuel prices) but really, if it raises again, a lot of fishermen won’t survive.”

He said it would be difficult for fishermen to increase their prices, not only because fish prices change with supply and demand, but because fish were perishable. As a result, fishermen had to sell their catch to vendors in a timely manner.

Unipet said increased prices without margin adjustments will affect the viability of its gas stations.

In a release, Unipet said waited to see if the increases will impact its operations. "That is the detail that will determine the future survival of all our dealers and ensure that our gas stations remain open for business.”

It said while hydrocarbons will continue to be the primary transportation fuel in the immediate future, Unipet has already begun the transition towards renewable green energy including the use of solar power at its Brentwood station and its convenient electric vehicle charging units.

“Our greatest hope is that the government has considered our recommendations for the implementation of a different pricing model which will ensure that the market operates in the best interest of everyone, particularly our customers and consumers.”

Horace Amede, president of the Inter-Isle Truckers and Traders Association said despite being aware of the global situation, he believed it was unreasonable for the government to increase fuel prices.

“A lot of transport vehicles are older and not getting the type of mileage they did before. Already people are using kerosene with their diesel to stretch the dollar.”

He added that once fuel prices increased, the cost of almost everything else, including the cost of transportation and the movement of goods, would increase as well, and “everybody in the country will feel the squeeze.”

Contractors’ Association president Glenn Mahabirsingh said his members also anticipated some adjustments in fuel prices and expected contractors to recalculate costs.

He said since the pandemic there had been a series of increases in all materials as well as shipping costs. And, since the war in Ukraine and the resulting increases in oil prices, they saw increases in the price of bitumen. Now, they are seeing an increase in diesel prices when diesel is used in the production and transport of materials.

Since input costing has been so unpredictable over the past few years, he called on the government to reinstate subclause 13.8 in state contracts which would allow contractors to adjust their pricing according to changes in costs.

“All these increases have been difficult for contractors. In this way, business would be fair to both the contractors and the clients and contractors would not end up in an out-of-pocket position.”

Sangre Grande Chamber of Commerce acting president, Indra Sinanan Ojah-Maharaj, expressed her concern for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). She called on the government to deliberate on fiscal stimulus considerations and engage in discussions with the business sector to buffer and mitigate the impact of the rise in gas prices on the sector.


"Stakeholders warn of gas price impact on fish prices, construction costs, SMEs"

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