Government is satisfied that retailers have maintained produce and goods at pre-COVID-19 price levels.
This was expressed yesterday by Minister of Small Business, Entrepreneurship and Commerce, Dwight Sutherland, following a tour to Massy Supermarket, Warrens, St. Michael, where he stressed that retailers had also “been key in maintaining goods on the tables of our people during the COVID-19 crisis”.
The Minister had earlier toured the Bridge Supermarket at Charles Row Bridge, St. George. These two supermarkets were the first in a series of visits to be undertaken over the next three weeks with the management of small shops, minimarts and large retailers.
Recalling that on March 17, the Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) had come up with a 48-item list called the COVID-19 Basket of Goods, Minister Sutherland said he was proud to report that the memorandum of understanding signed by BCCI and the major retailers in the country to maintain the pre-COVID-19 prices had been adhered to.
Commending the effort of retailers, the Commerce Minister said: “I want to thank Mr. Banfield, the Chamber of Commerce and the other major retailers, even though I am here with Massy, there were other major retailers like Jordan’s, Popular, Channell’s, Trimart, just to name a few.… They signed a memorandum of understanding, and I am saying I am proud of the retailers in this country for maintaining these prices within the COVID-19 Basket.
“Yes, we would have had some challenges outside of these major retailers, and we have to give credit where credit is due. We saw among some mini-marts and some small shops within rural Barbados and within the urban corridors people would have increased prices beyond what we call a reasonable mark-up. Some termed it price gouging, but some of the small players used it to their advantage to gain a greater share of the profit as it relates to the crisis, which is not fair to the average man, the average household. And, what is good coming out of this crisis … is the power of the consumer. And, one has to recognize the power of the consumer.”
Pointing out that the Ministry recognized that the consumer has the power to buy or not to buy, Mr. Sutherland stressed that it was about educating the consumers more.
He stated that consumerism was key, and it was the mandate of the Ministry to ensure that consumers get the most up-to-date information on food prices; they “are treated fairly, and there is equity across the board”.
Mr. Sutherland added that the Ministry had a team of six trading standards officers who travel around Barbados to the various mini-marts and shops to ensure that there is no price gouging within the goods that are being made affordable to the general public.
The Minister also lauded the work of the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs (DCCA) for “sticking to the mandate during the crisis”, and added that his Ministry intended to continue ensuring prices remained within a reasonable mark-up across the island.
Mr. Sutherland was accompanied on the tour by Director of the DCCA, Bertram Johnson and Trading Standards Inspector 1, Chrispin Walkes.