Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley yesterday confirmed that the global supply chain clogs at major US and UK ports will have a “very serious” ripple effect on the importation of goods to T&T.
“How could we not be impacted? We are a trading country. Much of our life is import/export, so this is very serious for us, as it affects the whole world,” he said in response to questions about the importation of goods into the country as the world continues to be crippled by disrupted supply chains.
According to international reports, the ports in Los Angeles are so clogged that up to yesterday, some 200,000 cargo ships were waiting to enter and offload.
Other ports were facing much of the same situation, with long lines of cargo vessels waiting to offload, load and leave but unable to move.
It is estimated that the busy global Christmas time goods delivery will be impacted and consumers in the US and UK have been warned that it will be months before the situation is back to normal.
There is also the related inflation that will see a steady increase in the cost of goods.
The same will happen here, the Prime Minister warned.
“Unavailability of the whole range of the outcomes of imports, general shortages and significant cost increases across the board,” Rowley said.
“Freight costs have skyrocketed. There is a significant push factor on the cost of imported food.”
He added, “That is why we have encouraged the diet changes to involve local fresh produce which is cheaper and incidentally, much healthier.”
Minister in the Ministry of Finance Brian Manning yesterday added his concern and confirmed that the ministry was bracing for the higher prices.
“We do expect an increase in cost for commodities and some imported goods,” he said.
Manning said there was still some good news though.
“This is good in that we expect greater oil and gas revenues in the short to medium term but bad in that the price of some imported items could see an increase,” he said.
“It is one of the reasons the Ministry of Finance chose to remove VAT and import duties on several staples or basic food items.”
Manning added, “Hopefully, we can alleviate some of these increased costs through fiscal measures that will create jobs and improve income levels across the economy while protecting the most vulnerable persons in our society.”
Minister of Trade and Industry, Paula Gopee-Scoon, said it was not just imported food that would be harder to get.
“All imports are impacted, food and non-food. These are exigencies beyond our control,” she said.
She said that Government took the position of zero-rating many food items, with emphasis on the very basic ones which all consumers use
“We continue to remove duties on the basic items,” she said.
Gopee-Scoon said that local imports into manufacturing are also impacted.
President of the Supermarket Association of T&T, Rajiv Diptee, yesterday shared his frustration with the entire shipping disruptions.
“When you have 200,000 ships loitering off the coast of LA waiting to dock and some of them leaving out of sheer frustration, it doesn’t bode well for delivery schedules, as the ripples go out. America is addressing shortages and delays. They are tending to themselves first, us after,” he said.
“Raw materials and price hikes in those, as well as imports by some, are expected. It is important to note that this year has been an aberration in the frequency of price increases due to the pandemic.”
Diptee added, “We have never had a year like this on record.”