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Supermarket owners: Price cuts came too late

Tuesday, December 24, 2013
Grocery packer Stephan Aleong puts a price tag an a bag of Lotus flour at Sik HeenTom grocery, Arima, yesterday. PHOTO: ABRAHAM DIAZ

Some supermarket owners around Port-of-Spain are complaining that the reduction in flour, oil and rice from the state-owned National Flour Mills (NFM) should have been done earlier for both supermarkets and consumers to benefit. Roger Ramdin, owner of Payless Supermarket, St Vincent Street, Port-of-Spain, said the announcement was made too late. 



“This came too late. They should have done this since the beginning of December. No supermarket could have bought extra flour or extra oil and rice,” he told the T&T Guardian yesterday. The discounts of a 20 per cent reduction in the prices of specific brands of flour, soyabean oil and rice, produced by NFM, were announced by Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar last Thursday at a post-Cabinet news conference at the Office of the Prime Minister, St Clair.



Ramdin said most shoppers would have bought those basic products early in the Christmas season. “Those are bulk items as you buy a sack of flour or oil in large quantity but two days before Christmas what kind of impact that will make? People who got early salaries would have bought these things way before. Only the people who got salaries very late would benefit from this,” he said.


He showed the T & T Guardian a letter from the Consumer Division, which was dated December 20, which he said informed them officially of the price reduction. “It was only last Friday a lady from Consumer Division came and showed us the 20 per cent price reduction and we heard the Minister of Trade spoke about it a little earlier,” he said. Christopher Low, owner of Sing Chong Supermarket, Charlotte Street,  Port-of-Spain, said there would be little impact of this late initiative from NFM to reduce these items.


“People already bought their rice and flour already so these goods are not selling as fast as people may have impacted. I believe it would have been more effective it was done earlier instead of this last minute where nobody saw this coming,” he added. He said the NFM initiative was a good one though and all income levels would be attracted to a discount like this.


He added: “Twenty per cent reduction on anything is a good discount but it is too late. Everybody buys flour and rice and oil so it is open to all people but time-wise it is too short. There is no hope to sell more of this because whatever stock we have has already been bought and that is what will be sold and we will be rebated for it after,” he said. He said if the Government and NFM did that again next year he hoped it would be done much earlier.


“We hope that if this is done again it will not be the day before Christmas Eve but it will give supermarket owners time to prepare,” he added. Janelle Lue, owner of Wang Supermarket, Charlotte Street, Port-of-Spain, said the Government dropped a “bomb” on supermarket owners by this late announcement. 



“Many of us bought stock since the beginning of December but they said the rebate would only be off the last bill. I only bought Ibis flour from my last order. The rice and oil were bought since early December so I have no rebate to get off that,” she said. She also complained that the Government should have explained its move much earlier and explained it better to supermarket owners to stop any confusion. 



“They cannot do this last minute. Customers were asking if it was all brands of rice but I explained it was only the NFM brands. This is confusion,” she said. Francis Mohammed, a customer, was happy for the 20 per cent reduction but wished it was done for all of December. “Twenty per cent is a good price reduction but the Government can not just do this last minute. They could have done this since the beginning of the month not when people already do most of their grocery shopping,” he said.


Shopper Marsha George told the T&T Guardian she wished the Government would reduce prices on more goods next time. “It is not only flour and rice people use. The Government needs to drop prices on more foodstuff,” she added.


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