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Supermarket Association President Rajiv Diptee.

If you have noticed an increase in food prices at supermarkets recently, you are not alone.

Supermarket Association of Trinidad and Tobago (SATT) president Rajiv Diptee says food prices have gone up but notes supermarket owners are not to blame.

In an interview with Guardian Media yesterday during SATT’s vaccination drive in Chaguanas, Diptee said issues caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, including shortages, delays in manufacturing and delays in shipping, have caused food prices to spike globally.

“We are very aware that food prices on the whole have gone up. We have been measuring inflation globally, it’s no secret…There have been several contributing factors throughout the pandemic, including commodities being affected, shortages in terms of grains and the inputs into the manufacturing of some of these things, as well as the cost of shipping and freight,” Diptee said.

He said the shortages have come in spikes, much like COVID-19 infections and case loads around the world.

Diptee said it was unfortunate that consumers have to bear the brunt of the increases. His advice: look for cheaper alternatives.

“We are trying to provide as many substitutes. In fact, we are encouraging persons to get into import substitution, we are providing workshops and strategies geared towards this. It’s really challenging times, I really deeply feel for the customers and consumers, I am only trying to put goods out right now that they can buy.”

He said he has instructed his suppliers to stop bringing him items that are now too expensive for consumers.

“If it’s too expensive, I am telling them don’t bring it to me to sell, because it doesn’t make sense for my customers to buy those things, so I think we’ve been seeing some things disappearing off the shelves.”

He said suppliers and distributors have been engaging in ‘shrewd’ buying as they try to bring cheaper alternatives to the market.

“It’s always easy to blame the supermarkets, just remember that we don’t set the prices, we buy the goods brought to us by our local distributors and suppliers who are having the same challenges as importers in the region,” Diptee said.

But he does not believe these price increases will be a long-term issue. He said once a significant portion of the population is vaccinated and life returns to normal, food prices should decrease.

“The reality is, we can see food prices returning to normal once the country becomes vaccinated. We’ve seen the US and UK reach some level of 50 per cent vaccinated, so there is a bit of a return to normal in some of these countries, and I think when you see those third world countries, or countries that are yet to receive any kind of significant vaccination, improve, then we’ll see food prices go down.”