The 20 per cent discount on oil, rice, and flour was a “resounding success” with consumers flocking to the supermarkets yesterday to buy stock, says Trade Minister Vasant Bharath.
The two-day 20 per cent price reduction in oil, rice and flour from National Flour Mills (NFM), a Christmas gift to the nation from Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, started yesterday and ends today.
Speaking at yesterday’s post-Cabinet news conference at the Office of the Prime Minister in St Clair, Bharath said day one of the discount was successful.
“It would appear at the outset that it has been a resounding success and the consumers would have enjoyed a very Merry Christmas as a direct result of those reductions,” said Bharath.
He said officials from the Consumer Affairs Division yesterday visited 40 supermarkets throughout the country which account for some 90 per cent of the trade.
The division, he said, was also working with the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) and supermarkets on the sister isle to assess the impact of the discounts there.
“From what we gather several supermarkets have already sold out of some of those products but they are being replenished feverishly by National Flour Mills during the course of today and tomorrow,” said Bharath.
He said some supermarkets started the sale on Saturday and they too indicated there was a resounding success.
He also disclosed that he spent half day last Friday meeting with officials from NFM, the Consumer Affairs Division and the Supermarkets Association to develop a plan whereby a number of mechanisms were put in place to ensure a smooth transition in terms of the price reductions.
He said a formula was worked out so that the supermarkets would not be “out of pocket” and a speedy rebate system has been developed.
Bharath said it was difficult at this time to quantify how much this discount would cost the State.
He noted that NFM was not fully State owned and therefore Government cannot jeopardise the company’s financial standing.
“NFM is not a totally owned State enterprise, there are minority shareholders involved and therefore what the Government is doing over the two-day period is ensuring that National Flour Mills is not compromised in any way as far as its financial position is concerned,’’ he said.
Bharath said Government was working assiduously to attempt to reduce the common external tariffs and other duties on imported foods.
He said this requires a consensus at Caricom level and that is why long-term measures cannot be put in place at this time.
Bharath said Government has focused attention on growing food with food inflation falling from 22 per cent to under ten per cent over the past three years.
“We are putting everything we can in place that is potentially realistic and that is sustainable,” he said.