Posted: Saturday, April 30, 2022. 6:17 pm CST.
By Aaron Humes: On Friday, we were emailed by a reader who was surprised to find out on a recent visit to the store that the price of brown sugar is 75 cents per pound.
The person wanted to know, “When did the government allow the price increase on the brown sugar? Is this an effort of the sugar refinery [Belize Sugar Industries Limited/American Sugar Refining (BSI/ASR)] to drive the customers to their new ‘product’ that they tried out several months back, that much of the public rejected?”
From our records, the last announced increase in the price of sugar, both plantation white and Demerara brown as they are officially known, was in December of 2015 at the start of the crop season that year, when then-Minister of Agriculture Gaspar Vega made the announcement after meeting with cane farmers.
As we reported then, cane farmers had requested an increase in order to counter the losses suffered from a fall in international market prices of as much as 35 dollars less per ton. The Minister said he didn’t think it would have an effect on the prices of other products made with sugar.
A source at BSI/ASR told us today that it has not asked for a price increase and the price has nothing to do with the trial rollout of golden granulated brown sugar in the Belizean market which has now ended.
We were also curious to find out what are the standard prices under Section 293, the Supplies Control Act and subsidiary regulations, to be applied wholesale and retail in light of the recent requests for increases in bread and flour prices and past battles over rice.
According to the Belize Bureau of Standards, under which the Supplies Control Unit (SCU) falls, Price Controlled Goods (PCGs) are “Any good or article listed under the Supplies Control Act Chapter 293 where a maximum price has been fixed. Selling above this price is an offense.”
Examples include brown and white sugar as described above; sliced and wrapped 16-ounce loaves of bread ($1.75); unsliced and unwrapped 16-ounce loaves of bread ($1.50); Grade C rice (90 cents per pound); red kidney beans ($1.15 per pound in Belize City; $1.18 in the districts); La Gitana and Bebe Agua flour (prices range from 90 to 95 cents for the former and 92 to 97 cents per pound for the latter).
Under the Supplies Control Regulations, all gasoline and liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), drugs from A to Z and other commodities are also regulated. (We have not been able to find the most recent version of the subsidiary act containing the regulations although the original act is recorded on the Attorney General Ministry’s website).
Over the years, producers have tried various means to get around the regulations, from Jack Charles’ attempt to import Guyanese rice in 2016 and sell it below the price to Casa Pan Dulce introducing a 17-ounce unsliced, unwrapped bread loaf for 2 dollars in 2017. But the SCU and Bureau of Standards have recorded convictions of supermarket owners and wholesalers for selling above the controlled price.
If you have any instance of supermarkets or others not adhering to price control regulations, contact the SCU at 822-0446/0447 or the Hotline: 0-800-2-TELL-US or 0-800-283-5587.
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