EDITORIAL: Food prices are very high
VERY often the cry goes out from consumers that it is very expensive in Barbados to purchase healthy foods, both for those who want to remain healthy and other individuals who have certain health conditions.
Both the print and the electronic media are full of reports singling out specific foods which are ideal for preventing/controlling certain ailments. However, when an attempt is made to acquire such items, the costs are usually found to be exorbitant, thereby putting those same foods out of reach for the people who really need them.
This subject came up during an interview this newspaper had with James Paul, the Chief Executive Officer of the Barbados Agricultural Society (BAS). Paul is reported to have said that it is a myth that healthier foods were out of reach of the price range of most citizens. Calling it a fallacy, the BAS CEO urged ordinary Barbadians to log onto Facebook where they will find farmers selling vegetables at very reasonable prices.
Later, he reasoned that Barbadians seem to think that the “only place you can get things to eat is out of a supermarket, which has overheads”. This is akin to the belief that people should therefore shop around to look for bargains or lower cost items, an answer which many in authority have given to consumers to get around the high prices. If one really looks at it, there are not many things in Barbados that are cheap.
During a news conference which the Governor of the Central Bank of Barbados, Cleviston Haynes, held two weeks ago, it was reported that price increases slowed to 2.5 per cent (at March 31, this year) compared to 4.7 per cent a year earlier (that is March 31, 2018). What this meant was that whereas prices were up in 2018, they continued to rise (by 2.5 per cent) for the period reviewed by the Governor.
One can bet that in the broad category of items making up the basket of goods used for deciding overall prices, food prices would have driven the increases in the two periods alluded to by the Governor. It is a common fact that lower income earners spend an estimated 33 per cent of their income on food.
With higher bus fares and fuel price hikes, the cost of living in Barbados will continue to increase. But the higher income groups in our midst have no such problems.
When it comes to medicines for example, several of the more popular ones prescribed for dealing with NCDs have from time to time been removed from the Drug Formulary, resulting in people having to make do with generics. The other thing is that not everyone has access to Facebook.
So these are some of the challenges which consumers and more so the lower income earners and those who want to engage in healthy diets, have to put up with. Also, there are those who do not have the comfort to shop around to seek out bargains. With bus fares having gone to $3.50, this would make it a ‘no no’ for consumers to use the public transport system to shop around while trying to find cheaper produce.
The bottom line is that prices in Barbados are high – be they food, medicines, transportation and whatever else people have to use.