PHILIPSBURG–The Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transport and Telecommunication (TEATT) Inspectorate said on Friday that no price-gouging is happening on the local market as it relates to the cost of items such as eggs and other food commodities. It said that, based on its investigations, the increase in prices locally is due to an increase in prices from source markets abroad.
The Inspectorate said also that based on research it had conducted, it had determined that the demand for and the consequent prices of these food commodities are also being driven by the online promotion of these foods as cures or recommended treatments for the coronavirus COVID-19.
“Foods like ginger, lime, brown sugar are all being promoted online and via social media as cures to the coronavirus COVID-19 or being able to address its symptoms,” the Inspectorate said in a press release on Friday.
The Inspectorate recommends that the public follow the recommendations and guidelines of World Health Organization (WHO), United States Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and local public health officials only.
According to Quartz, a website focused on offering different perspectives on the global economy, “panic-buying at grocery stores has made eggs and orange juice the best performing assets this year. A handful of agricultural commodities are in high demand. A dozen large white eggs has jumped to about US $2.93, up from around $0.84 at the beginning of the year [in the U.S. – Ed.],” according to FactSet, citing the USDA data.
According to the Inspectorate, government officials have stated emphatically that there is no shortage of food supply on the island and therefore the motive for price-gouging currently does not exist (no disruption or shock in food supply). However, international developments in the price of food driven by fears surrounding the coronavirus can and will continue to impact the price of food imports to the island.
The Inspectorate encourages consumers to consult the maximum price list for COVID-19 products found on government’s website when shopping and before filing complaints. Consumers were also advised to consult official sources for information on COVID-19, as consumer behaviour individually and collectively vis-à-vis panic-buying can drive up the prices being paid for food.
The Inspectorate said it had taken note of several complaints regarding the sudden increase in the price of eggs and other consumables on the local market. Specifically, claims are being made of price-gouging at some local supermarkets and wholesalers.
Price-gouging occurs when a seller increases the prices of goods, services or commodities to a level much higher than is considered reasonable or fair. Usually, this event occurs after a demand or supply shock. As a result of the complaints, the Inspectorate launched an investigation to determine whether there is a relationship between the movements in the retail price of eggs and other food commodities versus the wholesale prices being offered by suppliers.
Based on invoices of US-based suppliers received from several major food importers (on the wholesale level) and supermarkets (on the retail level), the Inspectorate concluded that from March 11 to March 30, the prices of eggs and other consumables have changed considerably.