Public on high food prices: We can’t tighten belts any more

File photo: Customers pay for their groceries at a supermarket in Arima.
File photo: Customers pay for their groceries at a supermarket in Arima.

AS food prices continue to soar, many people are growing more concerned that they may soon be unable to afford basic food items.

This comes even as Trade and Industry Minister Paula Gopee-Scoon admitted on Tuesday that food prices in TT are too high, although some products have seen decreases in some parts of the world.

She added that the government is concerned by this and reminded consumers of their purchasing power.

Newsday spoke with several people, at supermarkets in downtown Port of Spain, who said they have now been put in a position where they choose which days they can and cannot eat.

At Back to Basic Supermarket, Debra Ferris of Morvant told Newsday, “It’s hard for mothers. Single mothers and housewives are bawling. It is terrible.

“The amount of food you used to get with the money you have, you not getting that anymore. Some of the prices have doubled, so it’s now making it impossible to feed your family the way you’re accustomed to.

“They keep saying tighten your belt, but you can’t any more. The government needs to regulate the prices because these groceries buss our throats. After all, it is really out of control. I’m not blaming the government, but they have the power to protect the consumer. They can also remove VAT on basic things.”

Ferris said her family has been “pool-shopping” to make ends meet.

Another woman described the current food prices as “terrible.” She said she has been buying only basic items.

One family of three said they are having a tough time covering their food bill.

Thea Donald explained, her family has been making changes to its monthly budget to accommodate the high food prices.

Speaking with Newsday at Big H Supermarket, she explained: “We can’t cut anywhere again. Everything we buy we need, not even things we want. We not studying brands again. Whatever we cook has to stretch for a few days. We are just grateful we have life and jobs. At the end of the day we have to survive, so we have to buy it.”

Donald hopes the government can develop a programme to cushion the impact of heavy food prices on the public.

“I might talk about the government helping, but people might say we have a dependency syndrome.”

Shopping at Wang Li and Sons Co Ltd, nurse and single mother of two Terry Grandison of Mt Hope lamented how difficult buying food is becoming on a 2013 salary.

“It covers the bare minimum. It’s not enough. There will be a strong divide between the working class. Apart from transport, food is now hard to get.

“There are things you cannot cut down on. You don’t have a choice because you will affect your health by removing important nutrition. What I did is cook my food. I don’t buy food.”

Grandison said she has been “scraping” to cover other bills after buying grocery items.

Another nurse, who works at the St Ann’s Psychiatric Hospital, said she uses leftovers from food given to patients as meals at home.

“I would put some saltfish in the rice I get and mix it up and give to my children. I walk from St James to St Ann’s most days, and still I’m struggling to cover food.”

She said she also has a second job, but every time her finances stabilise she has to face another price increase.

“It’s hard. I don’t eat meat. I eat rice and peas and butter and give my kids whatever meat I can afford.”

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"Public on high food prices: We can’t tighten belts any more"

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