Not feeling ease

Minister Donville Inniss with BIBA’s Mohammed Patel (left) and Tom Sears
Minister Donville Inniss with BIBA’s Mohammed Patel (left) and Tom Sears

Duties, VAT and other taxes and source markets, all pay a part in determining the prices at the 100 per cent Bajan owned Shop Smart Inc.

It was during a “shopping trip” to the main branch at Holder’s Terrace, St. James this afternoon, where a Barbados TODAY team noted and compared prices of some of the hundreds of items available at the warehouse styled outlet.

Toilet paper, laundry detergents and fabric softeners, chicken, bath soaps, cereals, fruits and vegetables, meats and baby care items, as well as tinned meats and fish were all on the lists.

After carefully noting prices, sizes and quantities, including those of particular brands, the team spoke to an official who explained how they arrived at their pricing structure.

Pricing was very dynamic he said, and one significant factor was suppliers.

“The prices really depend on the actual cost of the goods. That can vary on the time that you buy it, the supplier you’re getting it from. A couple of years ago the price of oil went through the roof, currently they’re coming back down and that will be reflected in prices to be seen at Shop Smart very shortly.

“What Barbadians have to realise is that many goods coming into Barbados incur very heavy penalties in terms of duties and that results in a heavy burdens on consumers. Duties on some products range from 20 per cent to over 100 per cent, however, items out of CARICOM countries would not have that burden,” he added.

Additionally, the official explained that when a shopper sees a product at one outlet and a similar product at another with a “slightly more expensive” price, he/she should look at the size and where it was manufactured.

He explained: “There are items coming out of Mexico and the Dominican Republic which would be cheaper than products made in the USA. They would have the same markings on them but products that are made in the USA tend to be more expensive … because of the labour costs.”

The retailer further noted that “the slightest problem” especially in the United States through which most of the products were shipped or trans shipped which could include problems at a port, an increase in the price of gas, could also be reflected in the pricing of the items when they arrive in Barbados.

“During the winter months there tends to be a cost in the electricity and heating and that is also reflected in the pricing here. Basically, as they say when they sneeze in the US our prices get a cold. When the price of petroleum shot up about four years ago everything went up as well because most of the products come in plastic containers, bags.

“Shipping prices are also a major bug bear; they tend not to be uniformed and that also affects the final cost of the product,” the official stated.

He is also calling on the Minister of Commerce to examine some of the existing impositions.

“Many years ago Barbados put in place high duties and tariffs on certain items in order to protect local industries. Some of these industries no longer exist but nothing has been done to reduce the duties. That is one of the problems that people face.

“I would hope that the new minister of commerce would take a look at some of these archaic and draconian duties which are often applied to items coming into Barbados and find a way of lowering them.

“The Barbadian public needs lower prices and it cannot just be done by the people who import food. It is one thing to buy it cheap but it’s another thing when it actually gets to the port and you have to pay those astronomical duties,” he said. (DS/LB/EJ)

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