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Consumer Affairs laments over inflation but says it does not control commercial pricing

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by Eulana Weekes

St. Kitts and Nevis (WINN): The purchasing power of the people of St. Kitts and Nevis has been impacted by the high cost of food and other goods due in part to the dependency upon imports, a trickledown effect of global production and supply chain issues.

Over the past few months, consumers in the Federation have been lamenting the matter of inflation, with effects mostly being felt at the gas pumps or the supermarkets. 

Some individuals have called on the Government to provide relief, while others plead with the Consumer Affairs Department to ensure that supermarket owners or managers keep the cost of goods affordable.

During the Wednesday, December 08 edition of Voices on WINN FM, Tricia Rawlins- Communications Officer for the Consumer Affairs Department in St. Kitts, declared that the Unit only monitors the prices of items sold within the Government’s price monitoring programme.

“There are many common misconceptions of people thinking that when the price of any item increases in the supermarkets or in any store that Consumer Affairs directly has a part to play in it. So, I am just saying that is not how it works. The Government’s price control programme is basically a fixed set of consumer products and services valued on an annual basis. So it’s not every item in the supermarket we monitor the prices of or “put our foot down on”. Now, if there are disruptive or deceptive business practices happening, then we step in, but it’s the Government price-controlled items that we monitor on an everyday annual basis.”

Items under the Government’s price monitoring programme in the Food and Non-Alcoholic Beverages category include but are not limited to rice, sugar, flour, milk, eggs, bread, cereals, meat, fruits and vegetables. 

Meanwhile, the Director of the St. Kitts Statistics Department, Mr Carlton Phipps, told WINN FM that the St. Kitts Consumer Price Index (CPI) measured significant changes in the general price level of consumer goods and services purchased by private households within the Federation.

Particularly in the food category, for the period January to September 2022 compared to the same period for 2021, recent statistics indicate that while overall inflation for St. Kitts and Nevis has increased by 2.20 percent, the general increase in the prices of food and non-alcoholic beverages is 10.42 percent.

Phipps said, “Increases in oil prices have affected both manufacturing and shipping costs. The prolonged impact of COVID-19 means that the many manufacturing plants are not yet operating at full capacity due to labour shortages and an increase wage rate. The war between Russia and Ukraine has affected food cost as both countries are major suppliers of grains/cereals. These prices have increased significantly.”

The other categories in the Consumer Price Index reveal the following statistical increases for the period January to September 2022. Alcoholic Beverages, Tobacco and Narcotics 10.99 percent, Transport: 3.28 percent and Furnishings, Household Equipment and Routine Household Maintenance:1.93 percent.

In contrast, the inflation rate was slowed by declines in prices within the categories of Education: 3.02 percent, Health: 1.19 percent, Clothing and Footwear 2.00 percent, Recreation and Culture: 0.49 percent and Restaurants and Hotels: 0.78 percent.

The general concern raised by households is that their income does not increase as much as food prices which in turn has affected their standard of living.  As such, many individuals and households are taking advantage of social welfare programmes for monthly stipends.

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