A “Gift to the Nation”
The need to reduce food price inflation, making it easier for citizens to afford healthier food for their families, has remained a priority for my Government. Even as we acknowledge that food prices have been concomitant with global trends, we have aggressively pursued measures to gain a stronger control on our own local pricing and on a broader scale, improve the quality of life for the families of Trinidad & Tobago.
One of those measures has been a mission to reduce the nation’s food import bill by boosting local agriculture production. This mission has already measured success and with continued focused attention and aggressive policy implementation, local production will further increase, thereby bringing down the food import bill further and putting greater control over prices in our hands.
The issues of food quality, availability and affordability were raised during a National Conversation meeting with Supermarket owners, which took place on May 13th, 2014.
The ongoing National Conversation, as you know, is a platform for citizens to be able to speak their minds, share their thoughts on policies and day-to-day governance, and feel confident that their views are being heard.
The National Conversation will assist the Government with finding solutions to existing problems and help us to manage future challenges better.
To listen and then lead is a commitment I gave to our nation; one which I have every intention of keeping.
One of the initiatives coming out of that National Conversation meeting is the establishment of aStanding Committee on Food Prices, which is chaired by the Senator the Honourable Vasant Bharath, Minister of Trade, Industry, Investment and Communications and Minister in the Ministry of Finance and the Economy.
The role of the Committee is to ‘collaborate on issues and define a practical way forward to provide a measure of comfort to consumers’.
The Committee comprises representatives from the following organizations:
· The Ministry of Trade, Industry, Investment and Communications
· Customs and Excise;
· The Food Distributors Association of Trinidad and Tobago;
· The Supermarkets Association of Trinidad and Tobago;
· The Trinidad and Tobago Manufacturers’ Association;
· The Port Authority of Trinidad and Tobago;
· The Ministry of Food Production;
· The Consumer Affairs Division and
· The Chemistry, Food and Drug Division
The inaugural meeting of this Committee was held on Tuesday 22nd July, 2014.
It is important to note that for the first time in 21 years, the food price inflation rate has been kept at single digits for the first five consecutive months of this year. So some progress has been made, however, we recognize that much still needs to be done.
The Ministry of Food Production’s National Food Production Action Plan, has the following objectives:
• To reduce the food import bill
• To further reduce inflation, primarily driven by food prices
• To create sustainable, long term productive employment
• To contribute to the diversification of the economy, and
• To increase the country’s food security
The reduction in food prices and securing the nation’s food security is also a keystone of our manifesto, expressed in our first pillar for sustainable development, which is to provide ‘People-centred Development’.
You will recall that from November 15th 2012, the People’s Partnership Government, by Legal Notice 365 of 2012, removed VAT on well over seven thousand (7,000) items.
You will also recall that on Monday 23rd and Tuesday 24th December, 2013, my Government provided a gift to the nation with a reduction on the prices of flour, rice and soya bean oil,just in time for Christmas.
Today, the Government of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, with the support of the National Flour Mills Limited, is pleased to announce that in celebration of the festivals of Eid-ul-Fitr and Emancipation, citizens will be provided with a 20% discount on the following products during the period Saturday 26th July to Friday 1st August 2014.
This discount will apply to the following products:
o IBIS® brand All Purpose Flour (2KG AND 10KG)
o HIBISCUS® brand All Purpose Flour (2KG AND 10KG)
o LOTUS® brand of All Purpose, Whole Wheat, Bakers and Cake flour (2kg and 10kg)
o GOOD N’ NATURAL® brand of Whole Wheat Flour
o LOTUS® brand Soya Bean Oil (All sizes – 500ml, 900ml, 1.5 L, 3L, 5L and 17.25L)
o LOTUS® brand Rice (ALL SIZES – 1kg, 2kg, 4kg and 9Kg)
o CUISINE® brand All Purpose Flour 2kg
o CLUB SELECT® All Purpose Flour 10kg
National Flour Mills Limited will facilitate this initiative on behalf of the Government. However, the Government wishes to emphasize that this initiative will in no way prejudice the financial performance of NFM, as the Government will reimburse the Company in respect of all expenses directly incurred in the process of effecting this initiative.
This initiative forms part of the temporary stop-gap measure to allow for ease of living, while the Government actively pursue measures to ensure our food security.
Throughout the last four years in office, through these and other initiatives, my Government has revealed demonstrable evidence of our commitment to our people, which is always at the heart of what we do.