50 years ago: Lawmakers discuss flour prices

In the Dec. 13, 1967 edition of the Caymanian Weekly, a precursor of the Cayman Compass, the following story, titled “MLAs vote for duty off flour,” appeared:

“At its meeting last Thursday, the Assembly made a gesture to the public in recommending to Government that the 10% duty now charged on flour should be waived, together with the Warehouse fees on this commodity. This was an honest attempt to help the public by reducing the price of bread, patties and other items made from this staple ingredient.

“In his introductory address, the mover, Mr. W.W. Conolly, pointed out that we have here three large importers of flour, with the amount being brought in by smaller merchants being very limited. He had gone into the records regarding this particular item and had ascertained that if the 10% duty on flour is waived, it will be a loss to the Govt. of around £1,500 per year, which he contended can be quite easily offset by the anticipation of collecting a certain amount of duties under the Hotel Aids Law.

“As there are only three main importers, Mr. Conolly felt that, apart from competition, it would be very easy for Govt. to look inside the price and see that there is no exploitation in respect for this particular item.

“‘If this 10% duty is waived’, he said, ‘there should be a reduction in the price to the consumer.’

“Concluding, Mr. Conolly said, ‘Flour is used by everyone and as we are giving relief of duty on sweaters, radios, watches, etc. I feel this should be added to the list.’

“Mr. T.W. Farrington opposed the motion as in the light of past experience of waiving of the duty without a proper control law, he foresaw that flour would go up 2/- next week. Items put on the free list have not benefitted so far as the public is concerned, and by waiving duty on this item he felt the House would just be removing £1,500 from the Government’s revenue and the public would get no benefit.

“Capt. E. Kirkconnell did not see how such a waiver could reduce the price of bread by 10%. It would reduce the wholesale and retail price by 4/10d per sack of 100 lbs. “If I was assured that this would reduce the price of bread by 10%, I would support it, but it would first be necessary to get the assurance of the bakers that this would be reflected in the price. To take off the duty and then go to them later would be putting the cart before the horse,” he said.

“Mr. B.O. Ebanks also sympathized deeply with the motion which he thought was brought about in good spirit and had merits but stated, “I happen to know that when duty was taken off some time ago, I was told that it reflected something like 2/6 d. per sack, and since this could not be reflected in the retail price it was not passed on to the retailer, so I am afraid this is about what would happen again.

“Mr. A.B. Bush expressed the view that while it looks right that duty should be removed from flour, he did not see that the benefit would be passed on to the consumer, but was only going to mean more money to the merchant.

“Miss Annie Bodden felt that if there was any reduction in duty then this should be reflected in the price to the public. A penny would not help very much, but for the Govt. to lose £1,500 in revenue would be a lot in this present time. She would not consider supporting any control in prices as she did not feel that the merchants were charging extortionate prices.

“Winding down the debate, the mover of the motion, mentioned that he understood the public feels that the House is too well influenced by the merchants and certain remarks in this general debate gave him the impression that the general opinion is right since it had been admitted by a merchant that when duty was last taken off some items, it was not reflected in the price to the public.

“Upon the vote being taken, the motion was passed.”

– the 8 voting for being Miss Annie Bodden, R. Arch, Anton Bodden, W.W. Conolly, B.O. Ebanks, S.A. Ebanks, C. Hill and E. Kirkconnell.”

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