Condensed milk produced regionally such as in Jamaica carries no duties as opposed to extra-regional milk and another government guaranteed long-term facility of up to $500 million in loan guarantees will soon be launched for small and medium businesses.
Minister of Trade Paula Gopee-Scoon yesterday cited the measures among those geared to decrease food prices. She was replying in the Senate to Opposition Senator Wade Mark’s queries on rising food and cooking oil prices and steps being taken to mitigate the cost of living increases.
Gopee-Scoon listed the Government’s responses to price increases since 2021, including the removal of Value Added Tax (VAT) on some food items.
Whether some foods still carrying VAT would be zero-rated, Gopee- Scoon said, “Quite a lengthy list of food items were offered for zero-rating in the 2022 Budget, but this Government is quite concerned about the population (and) the effect of price increases and we’ll always have in mind the population’s needs and these matters will remain before us always.”
On further suspending the Common External Tariff ( CET) since Mark said condensed milk has a 30 per cent duty, Gopee-Scoon noted that is on extra-regional milk, but Jamaican produced condensed milk carries no duties.
Gopee-Scoon said inflation in Trinidad and Tobago basically imported inflation- was levelling off in March when the effects of the Russia-Ukraine war occurred. She warned that vigilance is needed due to that and inflation remains a cause of concern for the Government.
Gopee-Scoon said the most recent data in Central Bank’s (May) Monetary Policy Report revealed that in March 2022, the year-on-year headline inflation was 4.1 per cent, core inflation 3.2 per cent and food inflation 7.9 per cent.
Monthly headline inflation in March 2022 was recorded at zero per cent, monthly core inflation zero per cent and monthly food price inflation -0.2 per cent.
“However, the effect on inflation of the war in Ukraine and other supply chain disruptions is far-reaching and unpredictable, so we in T&T need to be vigilant.”
“Central Bank’s report indicated that supply side factors such as the acceleration in international food prices, higher shipping costs and logistical delays had notable pass-through to domestic prices, hence leading to an increased inflationary environment.”
The Minister cited global inflation of 8.6 per cent in the US and 8.1 Europe.
“Inflation in T&T at this time, 4.1 per cent is well below the US, but it is a cause for concern because we’re not immune from global events.”
She added this country is experiencing imported inflation because it depends on imports of food and other products.
Gopee-Scoon said, “The FAO estimated international food and feed prices could rise between 8 per cent to 20 per cent as a result of the Russia- Ukraine conflict. Both are known as the breadbaskets to the world, together, accounting for close to 30 per cent of the world’s exported wheat. Disruptions to agricultural activities of these two major exporters of staple commodities threaten food security globally.”
Guardian Media reported a few days ago that consumers will soon be paying more for rice as two brands of rice–Old Mac and Rainbow–are set for a five per cent increase. The price hike was confirmed by the CEO of Trinidad Parboil Ltd/Old Mac Agro, Liaquat Ali.
Supermarket operators also confirmed that there was a ten to 20 per cent hike in the cost of rice in the last six months.