Government officials address public concerns over rising food prices

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By Makeida Antonio

[email protected]

With Antiguans and Barbudans being unsure of how much they will have to spend on food and other goods during the Christmas holidays, the government has said that rising food prices is not unique to the twin island nation.

Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade EP Chet Greene reminded residents that the country is heavily reliant on food imports and, as a result, the effects of disruptions to the global supply chain are affecting supermarket prices locally.

“We are a part of a global trading system, therefore increases in prices has an impact and implications for us. We are also very dependent on imports so that has further implications on cost of living.

“I think the government’s call at the start of the pandemic is heightened, at that point at least, it’s showing an awareness on the part of the government’s leadership in terms of encouragement to grow more food,” he said on the Connecting with Dave Lester Payne Show yesterday.

The Trade Minister indicated that the increase in costs for several moving parts of the process of getting food on dinner tables in Antigua and Barbuda is why shoppers are seeing a noticeable difference in the prices on various supermarket shelves.

“It is a global problem. Shipping lines, prices are going up, the whole question of manufacturing and production would be included, the price for that is going up. So, all of the inputs, all of the component parts of the whole, are affected,” he said.

Greene suggested that individuals should take personal responsibility and choose wisely when they are purchasing goods for daily consumption.

“As a trader or as a household, you know those things are being affected by what is happening currently. We can only encourage our people to be responsible in eating habits, in spending habits, save more, spend less. I am not saying to go hungry or not eat properly; not suggesting that at all, but be careful with how you spend,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Prices and Consumer Affairs Division recently released an eight-page document detailing ways that shoppers can save money at the checkout.

The Division’s Public Relations Officer, Joanne Peters, believes that this brochure entitled ‘Ways to Fight Rising Food Prices’ will help the public to make the best financial decisions. It details 15 methods that consumers can use to mitigate any negative impact on their pockets.

“The Division has put together this brochure and we are giving consumers the necessary information that they need at this time so that they can make informed choices and wiser purchasing decisions.

“However, making the choices as to what to purchase is the right of the consumer. We are giving them the information; it is up to the consumer if he or she is going to act on the information,” Peters told Observer yesterday.

She also confirmed that there are daily inspections of supermarket shelves which ensure that prices do not exceed the highest possible price that merchants can sell items for.

“Our price control inspectors do daily inspections and one of their tasks or duties is to check that the prices do not exceed the maximum selling prices. Our inspectors will do the necessary investigations if the prices are exceptionally high and we will ensure that if it is above the maximum price, the trader corrects the price,” Peters explained.

Residents are being encouraged to contact the Prices and Consumer Affairs Division for a copy of the document by calling 462-4347.

Last Thursday, during a handover ceremony of two temporary mobile hospitals from the US government, Prime Minister Gaston Browne noted that about 80 percent of the food that is consumed by locals comes from the USA.

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