MSJ leader David Abdulah. FILE PHOTO –
DESCRIBING the hike in food prices as a national emergency, Movement for Social Justice (MSJ) leader David Abdulah is urging people to buy local.
Speaking at a virtual press conference on Sunday, Abdulah said, “We (TT) can support local farmers with price support mechanisms by giving them a guaranteed price for products to enable them to have a decent life so they can plant more and subsidise the cost of consumers. That will encourage people to buy local produce.”
Abdulah spoke from the party’s headquarters in Marabella.
He said the country is heavily dependent on imported foods which accounts for annual expenditure of over US$1 billion.
He suggested the country, as a short-term measure, can reduce imports on potatoes for fries by using locally-grown breadfruit and sweet potatoes to make fries.
“The manufacturing processes are well-established for those methods. We have to go on a massive buy local campaign to encourage our consumers to buy local. We need to raise taxes on imported potatoes and fries to shift consumption towards local produce,” Abdulah said.
He added that flour and grain prices are going up, which means dairy prices and meat are going to rise too. Abdulah said TT and the rest of the Caribbean region can significantly reduce dependence by working together.
He also called on Government to ensure that the National Flour Mills (NFM) does not increase the price of flour and animal feeds. The Government was also told to support NFM by “injecting funds” into the company if it is running at a loss by selling flour at a lower price than it pays for wheat.
“The Government can recover from that loss for a short period. That would be about $15 to $25 billion, while we get food production up and reduce our dependency on flour.”
In December, NFM increased prices on its retail brand, Hibiscus Flour, by 10 per cent. The company also increased another of its retail brand, Ibis Flour, by 17 per cent.
With world oil price rising, Abdulah said the solution is not to reduce fuel subsidies as this will only add further pain to ordinary workers already struggling to cope with rising food prices.
On Tuesday, at the Conversations with the Prime Minister forum, Dr Rowley said if Government removes the fuel subsidy, premium gasoline would go from $5.75 per litre to $7.58; super gasoline would go from $4.97 to $7.46 per litre; and diesel will move from $3.71 to $6.58 per litre.