Tropical Shipping added US $125 per 20-foot container and US $250 per 40-foot container, among other hikes in goods coming from the continental US and Canada. The company said the increase was necessary because of changes in fuel prices.
Director of the Consumer Affairs Division Hildred Simpson said an increase in the cost of goods is expected.
“Shipping costs is one of the expenses that traders are allowed to reflect in their prices. If the cost of shipping increases it means it would be reflected in some measure in the cost to consumers,” Simpson said.
“We will ensure that whatever increases are applied are indeed due only to the shipping costs that need to be recouped by traders and no unnecessary costs are added,” she added.
Owner of the wholesale business, Goodwill Agencies, Fitzroy Dickenson, said the poorest people will be the worst affected.
“Anything that increases has to cause an effect. It doesn’t affect wholesalers per se, it costs you an extra dollar to put in, but it’s passed on to the end users,” Dickenson said.
“It’s the poor people who cannot get an increase in salary or who have been laid off are the ones who will suffer,” he added.
General Manager Epicurean, Richard Buoni, said the shipping costs make operations difficult for supermarkets.
“The problem that it poses is it’s almost a five per cent increase in the cost of our freight. If we decided to pass on the cost it would increase the cost to our consumers,” Buoni said.
“Supermarkets, if they are doing very well, are lucky to make five per cent, most of us don’t. It’s a huge cost and could be passed on as an increased cost to the consumer,” he added.
The supermarket manager would not reveal whether Epicurean would pass on the cost, but said it makes it harder to keep prices low.
“Epicurean on a daily basis fights with suppliers and people who sell us goods to constantly try to get prices down to get a better price on what we buy, so this goes against what we try to do,” Buoni said.
Food will not be the only commodity affected by the increase in shipping, according to the consumer affairs director.
“Tropical Shipping is a very popularly used shipping agent for almost every consumer item. I know for sure that consumer goods and food items will be affected,” Simpson said.
“We will definitely have to wait to see invoices and shipping costs, but our preliminary view of the situation suggests it should not result in huge increases,” she added.
Attempts to contact other supermarket chains and wholesalers were unsuccessful up to press time.
Tropical Shipping increases will affect all shipping between the continental US, Canada, the United States Virgin Islands, Tortola, Virgin Gorda, Dominican Republic, Anguilla, Antigua, Barbados, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Nevis, St Barth’s, St Kitts, St Lucia, St Maarten, St Vincent and Trinidad.
The head of the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) last week sought to allay fears of a repeat of the unrest and hunger seen in the 2007/08 food crisis.
(More in today’s Daily OBSERVER)