Supermarket Association: Time to look for new wheat suppliers

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Rajiv Diptee, president of the Supermarket Association. – FILE PHOTO/ROGER JACOB

The Supermarket Association (SATT) is urging the Government and distributors of flour and wheat products to find alternative suppliers, as another price increase may be on the horizon.

SATT head Rajiv Diptee said with Trinidad and Tobago being an import-dependent nation, local millers would now have to work harder to endure continuity of production and reliable supplies.

His worry was exacerbated by India’s ban on wheat exports because of a heatwave which curtailed output and pushed domestic prices to a record high.

Already, wheat prices have increased several times in the last two years, because of the covid19 pandemic and the Russia-Ukraine conflict, which have disrupted demand and supply as well as freight and shipping costs.

“All stakeholders have made adjustments to absorb price increases where possible. As the continuous supply shocks continue to be extraneous to a system already flummoxed by covid19, we must continue to look at domestic and intra-regional options to explore food security.”

Diptee said India’s export ban on wheat followed an alarming trend of grounding exports to focus on domestic consumption where countries were expecting shortfalls.

“It also creates uncertainty for global supply, as this pattern of locking down exports creates inflationary pressures on nations who depend steeply on external sources where commodities like grain are concerned.”

India has been considered a leading wheat producer and the ban on exports will shake the global market, Diptee explained.

He added that there were other markets such as China, the US and South America, but India’s grain was attractive for its price point.

“Considering that both Russia and Ukraine are two of the world’s largest exporters of wheat, we now have a situation that will look toward a now more limited number of wheat-exporting countries which will experience higher prices as a result.”

When asked what other markets TT can look to, he said, “Major players have removed themselves from the world market either due to war or, in the case of India, to pursue their own food security.

“Where markets experience these serious distortions, production will have to be ramped up in producing nations, which will take time for cycles of production. What that translates to is more limited supplies with demand not going down so the prices go up..”

Diptee urged the nation to recognise that changes to diets may derive economic and health benefits at a time when there are many challenges to a traditional dietary staple.