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Cabinet Rejects the Increase of Sliced Pack Bread

An increase in the price of sixteen-ounce pack of bread will not be allowed at this time. That’s the decision that Cabinet arrived at when it met in a regular session on Tuesday. A release issued today says that Prime Minister John Briceno and his ministers have reviewed a submission from the Ministry of Agriculture, Food Security and Enterprise to increase the price of a 16-ounce pack of sliced bread by fifty percent on the wholesale price. They have determined that no price increase will be allowed at this time, so when? That is what the media asked Minister Mai today.

Jose Abelardo Mai, Minister of Agriculture, Food Security & Enterprise: It has been at that from 2008 I think. The research said 2008. The bakers submitted to us that they want to increase the price of bread by .75 cents wholesale and .75 cents retail. They did provide enough evidence to show that their costs of baking the bread has gone up to $1.81 a pound so they’re selling at $1.50 right now I think they said now, right? So they are selling..”

Reporter: It’s $1.75

Jose Abelardo Mai, Minister of Agriculture, Food Security & Enterprise:$1.75? So they’re selling below. So we looked at it. We analysed it. We prepared a Cabinet paper and we presented it to Cabinet. Cabinet has not said no. They are saying I think we need to do further research on it. Further engage the bakers because bread is a daily thing. Right? Bread is a daily thing. We have asked again for a director for the supplies to meet again with the bakers to look at the structure of pricing they have and to see where it is possible to minimise the increase. We’re not saying that they will not get an increase. We are saying let us study carefully any increase, any *inaudible* right now, will put additional suffering on our people.”

Cabinet has instructed Minister Mai to engage with the Association of Bakers to ensure other alternatives to minimize the possibility of drastic increases in the price of a 16-ounce pack of bread. According to Mai, producers of other sectors want to increase the price of their products.

Jose Abelardo Mai, Minister of Agriculture, Food Security & Enterprise: I suspect there will be an increase. It not necessarily will be what the bakers are asking and I suspect there will be more people coming for increases in commodities. Again, it has to be managed. It cannot be that producers will take advantage of the consumers. It cannot be that. The bakers will not be the first nor the last to come. You have the grain growers. You have the rice producers. Let me tell you what is my concern, my worry when I look at inflation. The first thing that comes to mind is rice, beans, and corn because we eat rice everyday. Beans is the cheapest source of protein for Belizeans. The cheapest source of proteins for Belizeans in meat is chicken so when corn goes up, when rice goes up, when beans goes up, there’s reason for concern. Now I’m certain that, well the rice producers have already indicated to me that they want to speak about this with me. Now, again, we don’t want to tell them that, oh you will sell at this price. That’s not the way it goes. Show me your cost of production. We’ll analyse it and we will, if in the event, make very very careful decision on this. It cannot be. It cannot appear to be that they want to take advantage of the consumer. No. I am a farmer. I know the cost to grow certain things but I also have to put myself in the consumer’s shoes, right, and so we have to be fair to both sides. It’s a tough place we’re in but we have to make decisions.”