A ‘COVID-19 basket of goods’, containing 48 essential items, has been drawn up by Government. Its prices are to remain fixed during the virus crisis, Minister of Commerce Dwight Sutherland has announced.
He revealed details of a partnership between the ministry, the Chamber of Commerce and the private sector to identify the four-dozen food, toiletry and health items which are to remain accessible to all Bajans during the next few months
Sutherland, who was speaking on the Appropriation Bill now before the House of Assembly, said in cases where items have to be imported Government would charter flights to bring them into the country.
Sutherland told the House: “We saw it fit… to come up with a list of 48 items – a COVID Basket of Goods. I want to thank the Barbados Chamber of Commerce, members of the Private Sector Association, importers of goods, those wholesalers and retailers.
“We sat in three meetings, for the past five days, to see how we can best work as a team to ensure there is no price gouging, to ensure that there is no hoarding and to ensure that we come up with a basket of goods that represents what the average householder would consume on a daily basis.
“We came up with a list of 48 items. I want to thank those stakeholders who saw it fit to approach us, the BCCI who approached us.”
According to Sutherland, Government and the retailers have agreed that there will be no increase in prices even though buying will become a challenge.
He said: “Our importers have said that they are prepared, even though the prices will increase, we know prices will increase based on demand and supply, but we have worked as a team to make sure that we absorb that increase.
“How much Government will share I am not at liberty to say. We will ensure that prices will come down and not increase so that people can feel comfortable that this Government protects the interest of the working class.”
The St George South MP said Government was committed to ensuring every Barbadian has a meal during trying times ahead.
Sutherland said: “We think and we know as a Government that we have a duty to the people of this country, those who consume goods in this country, those persons who have to eat to survive during this crisis. This list of 48 items ranges from food items to toiletries, antibacterial and disinfectant, sanitary and health, baby items, adult diapers, garbage bags, toilet paper.
“We are committed to ensuring that every single person in this country shall have food to eat. They shall have bread on their tables even if salaries are impacted. I will make it a document of the house because I don’t have the time to call out all the items. It has in it pasta, flour, rice, sugar, biscuits, bread, tea, Vitamin C, oranges.”
On imports of rice, the Commerce Minister explained that Prime Minister Mottley, who has been pursuing deeper ties with Suriname in farming, has made arrangements with Paramaribo since the traditional suppliers were not an option.
“We said if we have to source these items from elsewhere, such as rice and we have started to look at rice coming out of Suriname because we can’t get rice from the traditional markets. I want to congratulate the Prime Minister for forming the agreement with Suriname,” he said.