On January 1st, 2016 the cost of plantation white sugar was increased by 25 cents per pound and since then the Belize Bureau of Standards has been conducting increased market surveillance for Controlled Price of Goods throughout the entire country after receiving several complaints of price gouging.
Last week the BBS issued a release where they indicated that they had visited a total of 150 stores nationwide with the main goal being to ascertain product availability on the market for consumers, to verify price compliance and to ensure that consumers are not unfairly treated by both suppliers and distributers.
But despite the surveillance there are still several complaints being launched for price gouging. Here in the North consumers are still allegedly experiencing over pricing on the pound of sugar. Today we contacted, Consumer Protection Liaison Officer at the Bureau of Standards, Rodolfo Gutierrez, to find out if the bureau will conduct a second round of surveillance here in the North seeing that consumers are still being treated unfairly, here is what he said.
“Actually we haven’t stopped we will continue our momentum has already been established and we did evaluate Orange Walk to a certain degree and as a matter of fact we have confiscated items from four different establishments in Orange Walk, we have done about one hundred and fifty establishments from December until now and we have done twenty in Orange Walk which had to do with the different tiers of suppliers, the big stores and then the medium size stores, I guess we still have problems with those small corner stores and small little shops maybe in the rural areas can be problematic, we have not stop be doing our surveillance we will continue as we go along and we plan to report these on a monthly basis so I am certain we will be back in Orange Walk pretty soon.”
And when it comes to distributors overpricing the product, Gutierrez told us that it is the responsibility of the retailers to ascertain that they are purchasing the sack of sugar at a fair price in sight that at the end retailors are the ones who are charged if not in compliance with the regulations set by the bureau.
“We have to come up with a case file, let assume we confiscated items from a particular store so what we have to do is to come up with all the evidence and all the necessary paper works and that information has to be forwarded to the office of the DPP and for them to advise us and for them to push this with the court, only the court can decide what need to do or what the fine will be, what we are envisioning or planning to do in the future is that we want to establish some sort of ticketing system like the transport of the traffic operates whenever they catch you doing an infraction then they would just write a ticket and then you either pay or disputed it at the courts something similar to that depending on the severity of the infraction then we will have a specific sign established with each level of severity that we could possible think about and the issue a ticket to you then you either pay it or you dispute it at the courts.”
Currently retailors found not complying with the regulations of the Bureau of Standards have their product confiscated and the case is taken to the Department of Public Prosecutions for advice on how to proceed. The bureau also has plans to implement an easier more effective system to combat infractions.
“What we are telling the general public is that the sugar cannot be sold at a higher price than seventy five cents per pound retail in other words a sack brings about 112 lbs. if you multiply that by seventy five cents the maximum amount that this sack cost is $84 so there is no way that the distribution people or this stores can be selling at 79 or 80 dollars as I know about it, it can’t be selling that because then the way this is done is that BSI has determined their wholesale price at thei source and they have already taken into account transportation and other overhead cost that the distributor would be incurring so if they are adding more then they are taking advantage of a lot of people but then at the end of the day who will be penalized are not the distributors but rather the retailers we can’t control its distributors but we can control the retailer so the onus would be the retailers whether they would be buying at something higher than seventy five cents a pound retail if you understand what am I saying so if they buy a sack more than $84 then they are tolerating these people to take advantage of them they have to have more business sense than that at the end of the day you will be penalized when we go out and survey and we see they are selling it more than seventy five cents.”
Today we contacted representatives of BSI who confirmed that the set price for the sack of white sugar at the factory is seventy four dollars and seventy six cents and the sack of brown sugar is thirty eight dollars and forty one cents.
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