Monday, July 28, 2008

Consumers have clout, says Hutson

Published: Monday July 28, 2008

MINISTER OF TRADE, Industry and Commerce George Hutson is advising consumers to shop around.

He was responding on Friday to an Arawak Cement Company announcement earlier in the week that, as of Friday, the cost of a 42.5kg bag for "authorised distributors" would be $17, a rise of $2.83 per bag.

There was a $1 increase in April.

The company also announced that semi-bulk cement would increase by $67.08 for a 1.5 tonne bag to $402.48, while bulk will move to $367.64 per tonne – an increase of $61.27.

But, said Hutson, the consumers have the ultimate power.

"Consumers are in the best position to put pressure on those business houses to bring down the prices or decide not to buy, and they need to shop around.

"You need to look and see what the various retailers are selling their products at and look for the price that is lower and also to watch for the little tricks of trade that the retailers do, like adding in delivery into the price and things like that," he told the DAILY NATION.

Hutson said he understood that the recent price jump was a result of increasing cost of raw materials and some overheads.

"But a lot of their calculations and cost of overheads are on numbers up to the end of June, which at that time, prices were going up, and that is the kind of representation that they have made to us showing operating losses over the first half of this financial year. They are just reacting to that," he explained.

Hutson warned that it was no longer practical for Government to continue "that regime of subsidies that we had implemented earlier in the year".

"And I am not sure what the local retail price of cement will be. We haven't met with the retailers at this stage but there is an awful variation in the actual retail price of the cement, so I guess the retailers will pass through as much of the costs as possible to the consumers and we would probably have to absorb some of the others."

Chief executive officer of the Trinidad Cement Limited, parent company of the Arawak Cement Plant, Dr Rollin Bertram, said on Thursday night on Starcom Network's radio programme Tell It Like It Is, that the company "examined the costs of importation of a competitive product and we have determined that the price that we are now offering is a competitive price".

"We know that they are concerned about a monopoly because they see Arawak as the only cement in Barbados . . . but we ensure that our prices are comparable to the import costs and that Barbadians are getting value for their money."

Source: Nation Newspapers

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