My Thursday outings at the closest Supermarket, at the plaza near my home, are shopping trips I used to enjoy; these days it has become an exercise in budgetary control. I now have to compare Supermarkets Kingston-wide for special deals. It seems that though the hammer has fallen, the gong has yet to be hit harder to get your bargains, for the prices of goods have risen past the scope of the anvil.
Discussing the situation with a supermarket manager, I was told that compared to experiences in the seventies when staples were in short supply or not available, that we were living in a similar situation; the exchange rate of the Jamaican dollar is once more rapidly devaluing. The goods are available, but the prices have spiraled out of control.
I had to ask, “Why do the prices go up almost the same day on a commodity, and especially imports, when the dollar devalues. Surely there must be the normal storage of items, which will last until the next order comes?” We were at the boxed cereal aisle. So I was told there is little reserve stock of each item at the wholesale depot, and no stock was held but priced as delivered to the shelf; for instance, Kellog cereals have moved into the $700 to $900 per box region because of a low stock level. Though there are a few cereals that have barely climbed $100 per box, the Caricom brands of Cereal have also moved up to the $500 mark unexpectedly from under $300.
Well, my associate continued in explaining the devaluation effect, that there was little stock of the more exotic cereals, and they responded quickly to changes in exchange rate. I looked at the shelves and I had to say, “Why do we eat so many brands of cereal, surely an assortment of three to six types would be good enough? Why don’t we rationalize, keep the most popular types, which would realize a better inventory position.”
There was much rubbing of chin and beard, at this remark, and this reply came. “You see, every importer of cereal must get some room on the shelf. I get your point, and I will ask my manager for some guide; these days everyone wants their share, and they import more to keep the product in stock,” which contradicted his original argument. It seems, we cannot discriminate one importer over the other, regardless how much it cost in foreign dollars.
I feel that I was going around in circles with these replies, and thought I would move to something else. “What about the juices” as I looked at them, ‘They all are made here?”.
“Actually we are importing them from Trinidad, as they are making them over there more efficiently.” Doubtfully, I responded “Trinidad doesn’t have that variety of fresh fruit as we do, do they?”
“What they do is import the concentrate directly from other countries, east Asia mostly The locally produced juices we have in Jamaica that are made fresh and without concentrate are the Oranges, June Plums, Cherry, and a few others, which are made in Jamaica. These juicers, Tru-Juice, Country, also a new brand, make some new ones which are quite smooth in flavor.”
“Why don’t we just stick to those that are made in Jamaica, and save ourselves some foreign exchange, instead of paying for brands that are just flavor, sugar, and water.”
Fortunately, he had turned about and was talking to one of his cashiers, and did not present an answer. Then leaving him alone, I walked through the supermarket looking at the myriad of products, that we could rationalize, and save some money.
(619 words, 19/07/2013)
JA$= 100 USD