Wednesday, July 24, 2024

Cost of living still high; basic food items affected

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The cost of living continues to be a dilemma for many Belizeans as prices for basic goods have increased nationwide. According to the Statistical Institute of Belize (SIB), consumer prices for April were 3.9% compared to last year. Basic staples such as a 16-ounce loaf of bread recently experienced a 20% increase. In San Pedro Town, Ambergris Caye, the price of bread sold in packs of 17 and 22 ounces remains unchanged; however, other food items have slightly increased due to the cost of transporting goods to the island.
Bakers have requested an increase in the price of the 16-ounce pack of bread since December 2023. The increase was made public on May 31st, citing the new retail prices for the 16-ounce loaf of bread, which went from $1.85 to $2.10. This new price did not sit well with many consumers struggling to feed their families, particularly in heavily populated areas of mainland Belize. However, bakers said an increase was imminent as their operation costs have significantly increased. They even mentioned that the 35-cent increase was insufficient and hoped for another increase. A representative of the bakers in Belize City said that the increase is insufficient to adjust the changes happening to the raw materials, packaging materials, and labor costs. They look forward to working with the community and hope they understand.
Meanwhile, on Ambergris Caye, the retail price in most stores remained unchanged. A 17-ounce regular loaf of bread costs $3, while a loaf weighing 22 ounces costs $4. The pack of 22-ounce wheat bread sells at most stores for $4.50. According to a representative of the bakery sector on the island, an increase in the price of bread is not part of their plans for now. However, an increase may be triggered depending on the operation costs and raw materials. In the meantime, other items such as milk, dairy products, and poultry have experienced a slight increase, forcing islanders to adjust to obtain these essential food products. Some residents who preferred to stay anonymous said every week that the cost of living on Ambergris Caye seems to be rising. They said they have no choice but to try to adapt and stretch their dollar.
As per the survey by SIB, Belize’s monthly Consumer Price Index for April 2024, the summarization of price levels across all consumer goods and services categories stood at 118.1. SIB said this was an increase from 113.7 recorded in April 2023. Their report indicates a national inflation rate of 3.9% for that month. As such, the national Consumer Confidence Index was recorded at 37.0. This represents a decrease of 17.4% from 44.8% in March of this year.
The effects of inflation are not expected to go away anytime soon as another potential global shipping crisis is predicted. On Wednesday, June 19th, a member of the Customs Brokers Association of Belize said vessels transporting goods to countries like Belize had been forced to take other routes due to the attacks in the Mediterranean area. As a result, container and cargo vessels will take long routes, increasing operational costs and gradually impacting the local prices in Belize. Depending on the shipping industry, businesses are advised to shop smartly and only purchase what they need.

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