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Halkitis: Grocers complying with price control amendments

Minister of Economic Affairs Michael Halkitis said yesterday that grocers are complying with the government’s expanded price control list, which was introduced to bring relief to Bahamians grappling with inflation.

“We have our inspectors in the field,” Halkitis said.

“I’m being advised by them that, by and large, there is compliance with the new regulations. They’re doing an analysis that they will share with us but, so far, they’re finding compliance with the expanded list.” 

On November 6, grocers rejected the government’s latest amended list of items that are being added to the breadbasket.

President of the Retail Grocers’ Association Philip Beneby and Super Value food store chain owner Rupert Roberts said that what the government was offering in its final list for gazetting was “unacceptable”.

When asked yesterday about the rejection, Halkitis told The Nassau Guardian, “First of all, it’s not an offer. The government made amendments to the price control regulations expanding the list of the category of items under price control. So, it’s not a matter of accepting or rejecting.

“We had some conversations. We agreed. At the last meeting I attended, we agreed to continue the conversation with respect to trying to come up with an expanded list because their position was dealing with categories, it was too expansive.”

Halkitis said he last met with grocers about three weeks ago.

He said the government left that meeting with the position that it will enforce the expanded price control list and work towards a new list that both sides can agree on.

“So, it’s not a matter of accepting or rejecting. It’s the law,” Halkitis said.

In October, the government had gazetted a 15 percent maximum markup for wholesalers and a 25 percent maximum markup for retailers on certain categories of items.

The items on the government’s final amended price control list are the same categories of items gazetted last month, which triggered major pushback from grocers.

What is different, and what was announced by Halkitis on November 3, is that the government has agreed to an additional five percent maximum markup on perishable items for retailers on New Providence and Grand Bahama.

The government has also agreed to an additional five percent markup on non-perishable items, and an additional 10 percent on perishables for the Family Islands than what was originally gazetted.

The government had originally proposed the same markup for New Providence, Grand Bahama and the Family Islands, but conceded that Family Island businesses face higher operating costs.

The retail markup for non-perishables on New Providence and Grand Bahama remains unchanged from what was announced last month.

The government has made no adjustments to the 15 percent maximum markup announced last month for wholesalers for all price-controlled categories.

The Retail Grocers Association is still awaiting for the government’ response to its proposal.

On Wednesday, the association’s president, Philip Beneby, told Eyewitness News that it had not heard back from government.

“We haven’t heard anything since then,” he said.

“We’re still waiting for them to get back to us. They said they would get back to us and haven’t gotten around to us yet. They’re probably dealing with some other matters.

“All we can do is wait until they get back to us. We gave them a proposal and I guess they’re still either studying it or dealing with other matters.”

Halkitis said the government has agreed to a conversation over the six month period that the new list is in effect.

“Bearing in mind that this a temporary change to bring some immediate relief; so, we will be getting in touch with them so we can continue that conversation but, as it stands, the amendments are in effect and the inspectors are in the field doing inspections,” he said.

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Jasper Ward

Jasper Ward started at The Nassau Guardian in September 2018. Ward covers a wide range of national and social issues. Education: Goldsmiths, University of London, MA in Race, Media and Social Justice

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