Representatives of the TEATT Ministry during their meeting with food wholesalers.
PHILIPSBURG–Sufficient food stock is available in the country, but stockpiling of grocery items by consumers can result in supermarkets taking measures such as rationing, the Ministry of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transportation and Telecommunications (TEATT) warned in a press statement.
TEATT met with major wholesalers and suppliers of food recently to discuss supply and demand amidst the challenges faced relating to the coronavirus COVID -19 threat. Representatives of Prime Distributors, Cost U Less and Sunny Food were present at the meeting. Merchandise and stock levels; pricing (maximum prices), and steps taken to avoid price gouging; the importance of maintaining high stock levels and the challenges experienced with the supply of products and transportation were amongst the issues discussed.
The wholesalers “made it very clear” that there was sufficient stock of food items and that the main challenges faced related to goods that were in high demand globally such as hand sanitizers and hygiene products, TEATT said in the release.
“Wholesalers and the government representatives concluded that there was no need to panic, nor to stockpile grocery items. While there is a global challenge, there is no need to panic and purchase more than necessary,” TEATT said. It advised the public to purchase and save as they would normally do, by consuming conservatively and to be reasonable. “Otherwise the business will take measures in their own hands and begin to ration items to ensure that each household can have their basic needs met without any problems.
“As previously mentioned, the discussions included stock levels and the main types of food which needed to be maintained at sufficient levels. These food items such as rice, pasta, canned goods/food, etc. which were previously identified as key items during the hurricane season, are expected to be maintained at high levels,” it was stated in the release.
As it relates to supply and transportation, enquiries were made as to the challenges faced with the re-ordering of goods and the transportation/shipping of the aforementioned goods. “We do recognise that this is a global problem and many countries are buying the same items. As an alternative to address this problem, some of the wholesalers are looking at purchasing in countries where the problem has not affected them such as South America. Linked to the supply of goods is the pricing of the goods as it is imperative that we try and maintain prices at an affordable and reasonable level. To ensure this, adherence to the established maximum prices was also emphasized which they understood and agreed.”
TEATT said as it recognises that the pricing violations were happening on the retailer level (smaller grocery stores); it encouraged wholesalers to inform their retailers to adhere and not take advantage of the situation.
As of March 11, the maximum prices of goods related to basic necessities and those related to COVID-19, were formally and legally established. This means that controls will start immediately and businesses not adhering to the stipulated prices will be penalized according to the law. The penalties are four years in jail or a fine of up to NAf.10,000. The public is advised to report any violations by calling tel. 542-4511.
Representing TEATT at the meeting were representatives of Emergency Services Function (ESF): Secretary General of the Ministry of TEATT Miguel de Weever; Head of the Department of Economy, Transportation and Telecommunication Valya Pantophlet; Senior Policy Advisor Shervin Frederick and Mark Schloss of the Ministry of Health, Labour and Social Affairs VSA.