Sunday, April 14, 2024

SPTC and the supplies control unit warn stores against Control Price violations

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The San Pedro Town Council (SPTC) advises businesses on the island about the price control regulations set by the Supplies Control Unit (SCU). The SCU operates under the Ministry of Agriculture, Food Security, and Enterprise and has ticketed several stores nationwide, including San Pedro, for violations. Therefore, consumers are encouraged to report any suspected violations to the SCU by calling 607-4686.
Nationwide inspections began in September 2023, with businesses in the Belize District being the first to be visited. The SCU stated that the need to monitor price gouging arose from public complaints regarding the irregular increase in the prices of essential goods. The initial ticket fee is $300, doubling if the ticket is unpaid. Eventually, the ticket becomes a court summons, and the fine becomes heavier if the business owners are convicted.
The San Pedro Sun contacted the SCU, and they shared with us the list of supplies and control price amendments that stores should follow. Regulations were made by the Minister responsible for supply control, exercising the powers conferred upon him by section 3 of the Supplies Control Act, Chapter 293 of the Substantive Laws of Belize, Revised Edition 2020. The regulations were gazetted on August 11th, 2023, and are known as the SUPPLIES CONTROL (PRICES) (AMENDMENT) (NO. 27) REGULATIONS, 2023.
The items under price control regulations include eggs, beans, powdered milk, evaporated milk, canned chicken sausage, coffee, vegetable oil, chicken cuts, vegetables, ground beef, ground meat, lard, peanut butter, macaroni and cheese, corned beef, canned tuna, canned sardine, canned mackerel, canned herring, baking powder, corn flour, oats, shortening, yeast, creamer, cereals/corn flakes (namely: Kellogg’s Corn Flake, Kellogg’s Zu Caritas, Fans, Red & White, Country Barn, Gran Dia), butter (namely: Blue Bonnet Spread stick and tub), canned margarine (exceptions for those requiring refrigeration), cheese (exceptions for those requiring refrigeration), and even five-gallon bottled water. Other items included underprice regulations are feminine hygiene products, alcohol, diapers (except Huggies & Pampers), wipes, toilet paper (except Scott, Charmin), toothpaste, deodorant, baby oil, petroleum jelly, bar soap, soap powder (namely: Foca, Roma, Blanca Nieves, Puro Sol, Ariel), fabric softeners (namely: Suavitel, Ensueno, Downy), and liquid detergents (namely: Foca, Roma, Blanca Nieves, Mas, 123, Multiuso). The new law sets the maximum markup for these essential goods at 15% for wholesale and 25% for retail. Before the price control regulations, these margins were usually 30% for wholesale and around 60% for retail. The SCU hopes that the issuance of tickets may serve as a deterrent for businesses from increasing their prices on essential items.
In San Pedro, the cost of goods is higher than on the mainland due to the barging expense to the island. The SCU acknowledged this but advised businesses on the Cayes to charge their customers accordingly and stop price gouging. They stated that they would continue to visit businesses across the country, with their presence increasing this year. The Government’s Supplies Control Unit has inspected some retail outlets on the island, and stores that violated the price regulations were issued tickets for non-compliance. The unit stated that the new law allows the publishing of ticketed business names. While leniency is given for revealing names, if price gouging continues by the subsequent inspections, SCU will release a comprehensive list of businesses in violation.

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