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20% OFF ON NFM BRANDS

By Clint Chan Tack Friday, December 20 2013

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CONSUMERS yesterday received an early Christmas gift from the Government.

A 20 percent reduction in the prices of specific brands of flour, soyabean oil and rice produced by State-owned National Flour Mills (NFM) will be in effect next Monday and Tuesday.

In making the announcement at the final post-Cabinet news conference at the Office of the Prime Minister, St Clair yesterday, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar described the two-day price cuts as “a gift to the nation”.

Saying the People’s Partnership administration was always keenly aware of the issues that affect the daily lives of citizens, Persad-Bissessar hoped the gesture would “bring greater ease, joy and relief to citizens.” She said she received Minister of Trade and Industry Vasant Bharath’s support to “ reduce the prices on all brands of rice, flour and soyabean oil that are sold to retailers and distributors through NFM.”

“The price rebate of 20 percent will be enjoyed by all consumers in effect for Monday, December 23 and Tuesday, December 24, 2013. I am told, these are the two busiest shopping days of the year,” Persad-Bissessar said. Twice reiterating the rebate applies to only the brands of flour, rice and oil that are sold by NFM, she said, “The public must be mindful of this price rebate, arranged through the collaboration between the Ministry of Trade and the NFM with retailers nationwide.”

The NFM brands are Ibis, Lotus, Good and Natural, Hibiscus, Cuisine and Club Select. Persad-Bissessar initially included Five Roses flour but later informed reporters that Bharath advised her this product was not subject to the rebate.

Persad-Bissessar said Government chose to reduce the prices on these products because they were the staples consumed around Christmas, and throughout the year. “This is our way of easing the financial burden in some measure over the season. We ask that you accept this as a heartfelt gesture from your Government towards making your Christmas both brighter and hopefully happier,” she stated. She indicated the rebate will be issued to all flour and oil retailers who purchased the products from December 16 to 24.

Persad-Bissessar said the Trade Ministry’s Consumers Affairs Division “will be out in force to ensure this benefit is passed on to the consumers, to citizens.” She assured the temporary measure would not compromise NFM’s operations, saying Government would cover the cost of any loss.

“We expect the increase in sales will offset any shortfall that may come as a result of the reduction. Should there be a shortfall that is greater than that compensation, the Government will take up the shortfall and in this way, make it a gift to the nation,” she said. Bharath gave the assurance the products will be available in supermarkets next week.

“Generally speaking, that’s the kind of stocks most supermarkets, the larger ones would have, which would be a week’s worth of stock,” he said. Explaining the rebates will be based on the sales of the products, Bharath said a report will be done by NFM before Monday and another will be done after Christmas. “We’ll have a fair idea of the actual sales that took place over that two-day period and a rebate will be given for that,” he said.

Reiterating his ministry’s Consumer Affairs Division will monitor pre-reduction and post- reduction prices, Bharath said the division will also run newspaper and radio advertisements to educate the public about the initiative. Noting the Supermarkets Association was aware of this measure and Government expected to see “wide buy-in,” Bharath said. He added once consumers “know the prices should be at a certain level that they should insist upon it or they go elsewhere and shop.” He said the measure does not imply NFM is in financial difficulty.

Although the measure will greatly benefit the householder, Bharath said consumers of products in which rice, flour and oil are some of the components, will not receive savings of 20 percent. He said items such as roti, biscuits and cakes are not considered basic items “that would really assist the householder for that two-day period.”

Bharath, a former NFM CEO, predicted that when NFM presents its 2013 financial statements early next year, “you will see it has been the best years as far as profitability is concerned.”

He hinted NFM was close to “almost doubling profits”, attributing the performance to the new focus of the board and management and restructuring of the company that has taken place over the last nine months.

Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley yesterday said he welcomed measures to bring citizens relief from high food prices but cautioned the two-day reduction was not good public policy. Observing that 49 percent of NFM’s shareholders were ordinary citizens, Rowley said Persad-Bissessar should not intervene in the company’s affairs and direct it to lower the prices on certain commodities.

Recalling that Government last November removed Value Added Tax (VAT) on several food items in a bid to reduce food prices, Rowley said that measure only “removed VAT from a host of imported foods laden with fat, salt and preservatives.”

He said the two-day reduction appeared contradictory to Government’s “persistent campaign” of telling the population that food prices were decreasing.

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