File: An unidentified customer compares prices of different brands of flour at a grocery in East Trinidad.

Minister of Trade and Industry Paula Gopee-Scoon has said the Government did not agree with the new flour prices announced by the National Flour Mills (NFM) and has intervened to trim the margins of the increases.

Gopee-Scoon met with the National Flour Mills (NFM) yesterday following which the company agreed to limit the increase to its retail prices.

A statement by the Ministry of Trade and Industry said NFM agreed to reduce the increase of all sizes of Hibiscus Flour and Ibis Flour.

“Government thought it was high. We thought it was high and asked more questions to delve into the details and we scrutinised more than what was available in the balance sheet,” she said.

She said Government has to protect consumers’ interests.

Gopee-Scoon noted that the Government is not the only NFM shareholder and that while it is majority-owned by the Government, it operates on a free market and is not subject to price controls.

However, Gopee-Scoon challenged NFM to continue pursuing internal initiatives to improve operating efficiency and reduce processing costs in an attempt to further contain expenditure.

She said it is expected that NFM will continue to aggressively pursue grain-buying strategies including price options in order to reduce price risks to ensure the most reasonable price of flour.

The minister said a 10 per cent or 17 per cent increase to a two-kilogram bag of flour should not translate to the same increases for flour-based products sold by private businesses.

“Businesses utilising flour as the main ingredients in their products as well as supermarkets are requested to constrain any increase in the mark-up of retail prices as far as possible,” Gopee-Scoon said in the media release.

Gopee-Scoon added that the Consumer Affairs Division of the Ministry of Trade and Industry currently monitors the price of all-purpose flour and will continue to closely monitor the increase in the retail price of this item.

She said that information will be published on all of its social media platforms to provide consumers with guidance on purchasing options. Additionally, Gopee-Scoon has urged consumers to take note of the different prices attached to the various brands and packaging sizes of flour and make decisions accordingly.