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DH | Basket of goods to be increased to 72 items, bread price to be regulated

~Food importers have not shared redacted invoices~

PHILIPSBURG–Despite food importers not sharing their redacted invoices as requested, authorities are moving forward to increase the Basket of Goods controlled by government from 12 to 72 items. The price of bread will also be regulated.

The increase is not yet in effect. Acting Minister of Tourism Economic Affairs, Transportation and Telecommunication (TEATT) Omar Ottley explained to The Daily Herald that he has signed off on the increase to be approved by the Council of Ministers which is to be sent to the Governor. He is hopeful that it would be discussed in the Council of Ministers next Tuesday for further handling and to go through the necessary trajectory.

Ottley said in a press statement that the Basket of Goods or Commodity Goods was last updated 14 years ago and this structure no longer reflects current pricing needs, and the contents also do not reflect the needs of today’s population.

The TEATT Ministry currently regulates the wholesale and retail price of rice, margarine, butter, milk powder and canned milk, baby food, coffee and tea, flour, cornmeal, sugar and cooking oil. These items are the essential goods, which must remain affordable for local consumption, Ottley stressed.

The new list of items proposed in the updated basket of goods are; canned (evaporated) milk, powdered milk, chocolate powder milk, black tea bags, instant coffee, peanut butter, jam, sugar, flour, corn meal, margarine, oats, granola bars, Club Social soda crackers, Corn Flakes, salt, black pepper, all-purpose seasoning, pasta – spaghetti pasta – macaroni, ketchup, mayo, vinegar, vegetable cooking oil, rice, dry pigeon peas, dry kidney beans, dry pinto beans, canned lentils, canned red kidney beans, canned pinto beans, canned green beans, canned corn kernels, canned peas and carrots, tomato paste, canned tuna (in water), Vienna sausage, sardines, canned mackerel, corn beef, chicken leg quarter, dish liquid, dish sponge, bleach, disinfectant w/aroma, broom, mop, soap powder, toilet paper, sanitary napkins, baby diapers, baby cereal, garbage bags, toothpaste, tooth brushes, razors, shampoo/conditioner deodorant (male and female) boneless salt fish, eggs, medium fresh limes, fresh red apples, fresh brown potatoes, bunch of fresh green celery sticks, fresh green sweet bell pepper, brown or yellow onions, garlic bulbs, and fresh carrots.

Ottley said the goal of updating the basket of goods is to ensure basic needs for healthy eating, healthy living, and proper hygiene. “Young single-parent households must be able to maintain a good standard of living for their children. Revising the basket of goods and adding to it ensures we meet our goal of a healthy nation without straining our pockets. Everyone should be able to afford the necessities to live a normal life. We cannot ignore the huge gap between those who have and those who cannot even afford to give their children a decent meal before or after school,” Ottley indicated in the release.

The Controllers of the Inspection Department and the Consumer Price Index (CPI) Surveyors of The Department of Statistics for the Ministry of TEATT visited various supermarkets between January 2022 and May 2022 to get updated data on retail prices of existing goods in the basket and those now being added. The Ministry also consulted with the local wholesale and retail food outlets to discuss its plan of approach.

The decision to make the changes is in keeping with Article 2 of the Price Ordinance (de Landsverordening houdende regels op het gebied van de prijzen van goederen en diensten) (AB 2013 G.T. nr 761).

This gives the Minister of TEATT authority to establish maximum prices on goods and services if they determine that such is necessary for the general interest of the St Maarten community, the release said. Months of work went into preparing the new basket of goods.

Food importers did not share redacted invoices

According to the Ministry of TEATT, it requested food importers to share (redacted) invoices, but “we have received, to date, no feedback, or submissions based on said request.”

Ottley said the lack of information from the vendors is unfortunate, but noted that “the work must continue.”

Ottley said TEATT is using the existing calculation methods of taking the average prices of observed items as a temporary measure. “We must move forward given the increased cost of living due to external shocks (inflation), global pandemics and international developments, Inventory Shortages and the War in Ukraine.

“We still need the information to arrive at a mutually beneficial. We have created an avenue via our complaints system where major food importers can submit the relevant documentation to the Government. This can be done via the Ministry of TEATT, in a timely fashion to recalculate prices, if necessary.”

The goal is to standardize calculating the prices of the items in the basket of goods based on invoices submitted.

TEATT has also revised the cost and weight control policy on bread. Its goal is to ensure that price control on bread does not exclude imported loaves of bread in the same weight category.

TEATT has identified a method of approach that will regulate and, in some cases, expand the loaves of bread protected under the basket of goods. The LBHAM of 2008 controls the price of white sliced bread, whole-wheat sliced bread and lard/butter bread. However, imported bread of the same type is not regulated because they do not fall into the same weight category.

The updated MR seeks to regulate basic, standard white sliced, wheat sliced and lard/butter bread. Ottley said, “The stipulations in the LBHAM for bread in weight and price are outdated and no longer reflect the current market prices and weights. Using the maximum price and an established weight per bread type is no longer practical for our small island, where we struggle to achieve economies of scale. Making bread is still a manual process in which variances are inherent.”

Therefore, the Inspectorate for TEATT recommends that the average weight of a baked batch of a specific type of bread not exceed an established average weight. While maintaining the weighted average for control purposes, the Ministry has determined that 68.27% of the loaves in a baked batch must be within a set margin of error, and only 34.1% can fall below the average.

At the same time, the Inspectorate strongly recommends that 95.45% of the bread in a baked batch must be within two standard deviations of the set average. For example, white slice bread has an average weight of 535g and a standard deviation of 47g. Therefore, 68.27% of loaves baked should be within 488g and 582g. However, 95.45% of all bread in a specific baked batch should be within 441g and 629g, two standard deviations at the established maximum price, it was stated in the release.

Bron: Daily Herald

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