Ja consumers eye price hikes

KINGSTON, Jamaica – Jamaican comsumers should brace themselves for increased food prices, Agriculture Minister, Dr. Christopher Tufton said.

In an interview with The Gleaner, Mr. Tufton said increases in food prices are the result of world demand for traditional crops such as corn and sugar cane to produce bio-fuel.

“We face a challenge where for one, world trade arrangements are changing which is making us vulnerable as it relates to market for our traditional crops such as sugar and banana,” Minister Tufton said.

“Secondly, global trends, which see crops like corn being used as a critical source as bio-fuel, will likely drive food prices up especially with livestock.”

Corn is a primary feed source for poultry and most animals, while wheat is used to make flour.

A 30-per-cent price hike on counter flour took effect Monday. Three weeks ago, there was an approximately five-per-cent adjustment on the price of chicken meat, the most popular source of protein for Jamaicans.

World Food Day on Tuesday comes against the background that an estimated 36 million people die yearly from starvation, hunger and malnutrition. In addition, the Food and Agriculture Organisation, coordinators of World Food Day, stated that some 854 million people retired to bed hungry daily.

Andrea Thompson, a frustrated consumer and mother of two, said that she was barely able to afford nutritional food items for her family.

“Every month when I go to the supermarket the prices go up. Now I just buy the basic items, certain things like fruits and cereal I cannot afford,” she said.

Meanwhile, Minister Tufton assured that the Government would be vigilant to ensure that there was no price gouging.

“Government has to use mechanisms and entities, such as the Consumer Affairs Commission, to ensure that prices do not increase beyond what is necessary,” he said.

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