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Cheaper flour, oil, rice take effect today

By SEAN DOUGLAS Monday, December 23 2013

click on pic to zoom in
Early gifts: Shemaya Bowen, left, and her brother Tyese Bowen, of Tarouba, got a few toys early for Christmas when they were out shopping with relativ...
Early gifts: Shemaya Bowen, left, and her brother Tyese Bowen, of Tarouba, got a few toys early for Christmas when they were out shopping with relativ...

TRADE Minister Vasant Bharath yesterday told Newsday the steps to give consumers a 20 percent Yuletide reduction in the price of flour, oil and rice today and tomorrow are proceeding “very, very well”.

The discounts were announced by Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar at last Thursday’s post-Cabinet news conference at the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM), St Clair, where she hoped it would give consumers “ease, joy and relief”.

“I’ve met with the Supermarkets Association of Trinidad and Tobago (SATT), at length,” Bharath yesterday told Newsday. “I’ve met with the Consumer Affairs Division. Also I’ve met with several individual supermarkets like Hi Lo — the larger ones — Tru Valu and Xtra Foods.”

Bharath said a mechanism has been put in place between the National Flour Mills (NFM) and the supermarkets to ensure there is a smooth transition for the price-reduction.

“In fact some of the supermarkets have already started the reductions from Saturday,” he said. “For example Xtra Foods in Grand Bazaar decided to give an extra present to the nation which we have agreed to rebate them on. So it’s going very, very well, as far as we’re concerned. So we are very hopeful that things will go smoothly tomorrow (Monday) and on Tuesday.”

Bharath said 15 Consumer Affairs officers would be out in the field overseeing the price-reduction across the nation including Tobago.

When would officers start to note the “before” and “after” prices of foodstuff? He said, “Essentially they would have started their exercise today (yesterday), but be out in full force tomorrow (Monday) and Tuesday.”

Is there an “opt-out clause”, for any supermarket that doesn’t feel they can administer the price-reduction, that could post up a public notice in the shop to say the discount is not being given?

Bharath replied, “No, no. There is no opt-out clause. The fact is that National Flour Mills will be reducing the price countrywide, so there is absolutely no excuse for (supermarkets) not having reduced the price. And I urge consumers across the country to ensure that they go to a grocery that has reduced the price.”

When Newsday yesterday contacted Supermarkets Association president, Vernon Persad, he had totally changed his tune from his initial fears expressed in last Friday’s Newsday that the time might be too short to implement the discounts, and now he openly admitted his change of heart.

Asked how he felt about today’s planned discounts, Persad said, “Very, very positive.”

He added, “The response from our customers is that they are looking forward to the savings tomorrow (Monday). They are so happy that the Prime Minister announced that they are going to get 20 percent on the stated food items.

“To be honest I was very much surprised by the reaction. I thought people would have just passed it by, but people are looking forward to it. Apparently a lot of people in the lower income bracket are waiting on their money to spend tomorrow (Monday) and on Tuesday, so apparently it has worked out very well for that sector of the society. So I guess kudos to the Prime Minister and her initiative.”

“It went against the thread of our (initial) thinking, but kudos to her in her wisdom and vision.”

Persad was so enthusiastic that he quipped that it would have been nice if the discounts could have been extended beyond just products of the NFM where the Government is the majority shareholder.

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