Food prices decline, and rise in Oct-Nov 2021

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A grocery cart with food items. The Central Statistical Office on Friday reported declines and increases in the prices of a range of food and non-alcoholic beverage prices. – Photo by Roger Jacob

The Central Statistical Office (CSO) reported a decline in the food and non-alcoholic beverage price index between last October and November.

According to a press release by the Ministry of Planning and Development on Friday, the index fell from 129.6 in October 2021 to 128.2 in November 2021 – a decrease of 1.1 per cent.

“Contributing significantly to this decrease was the general downward movement in the prices of soya bean oil; tomatoes; whole chickens – fresh; celery; Crix; chicken franks; potatoes; other edible oil; cornflakes; and cabbage.

“However, the full impact of these price decreases was offset by the general increases in the prices of pumpkin; carite – fresh; salted pig tail; king fish – fresh; hot peppers; other chilled or frozen chicken (parts); sweet potatoes; melongene; parboiled rice; and red fish – fresh.”

Based on the budget reading on October 4, 2021, the following food items became zero-rated from November 1, 2021:

Vegetable/soya bean oil, coconut oil, canola oil, ghee, peanut butter, black pepper and other spices, family cereal, cereals for children, hot cereal oats, milk substitute, condensed milk, instant coffee, ground coffee, steel cut oats, black tea (3kg and under), green tea (3kg and under), orange juice, apple juice, still water (bottled water), seasoned meat, sausages (canned or otherwise packaged).

Also, canned tuna, canned mackerel, canned peas, canned peas, canned beans, canned corn, canned mixed vegetables, mayonnaise, ketchup, roti skin, soup (packaged), geera (crushed or ground), soya chunks, soya minced, ground dhal, cheese slices, table butter, pigtail, ham slices, turkey slices, chicken lunch meats, bologna, fresh juice and biscuits and crackers.

Already VAT-free were corned beef, curry, sardines, and smoked herring.

President of the Supermarket Association Rajiv Diptee questioned how often the Index of Retail Prices was analysed as there were food price increases in December and January.

“The dynamic where food prices is concerned is very fluid. Because of the variables in play at any point in time. So while this bodes will, we keep an eye on the indicators put out to us by suppliers and manufacturers of food and goods because we would have seen quite a few price increases over the past month and a half.”

He said while there were positive effects because of the removal of VAT on basic food items, they were mostly erased by some of the increases in the prices of imported foods and imported inputs into local food production.

He said there were price increases across the supply train including container freights, manufacturing, factories operating at 50 per cent, cost of finished imported goods, transportation and port issues and more. They were all still recovering from the pandemic.

In addition to the food and non-alcoholic beverage index, the release stated that the All Items Index of Retail Prices, calculated from the prices collected for November 2021 was 113.6, a decrease of 0.2 per cent from October 2021.

There was also a 0.8 per cent increase in the sub-index for health, and a 0.1 per cent decrease in the sub-index for clothing and footwear for the same period. All other sections remained the same.

It added that the inflation rate for November 2021 was 1.9 per cent compared to 0.6 per cent for the same time the year before. The inflation rate was measured as the percentage change in the average All Items Index for the period January-November 2021/January-November 2020.

The 1.9 per cent rate was an increase from 1.7 per cent recorded in the previous period, January to October 2021/January to October 2020.

“The release of the November 2021 RPI (Index of Retail Prices) closely follows the announcement by Planning and Development Minister Camille Robinson-Regis on January 9, 2022 that progress is being made by the CSO to bring the dissemination of the RPI back on the one-month time lag schedule.”

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