Lockington's Everyday Fiji ... Life Goes On

Allen Lockington is a self-employed customs agent and business consultant who has regular articles published in Fiji. I thank Allen for permission to reprint some of them in this political blog. They remind us that life goes on, whatever the political situation. And it's good to know that.

Sugar Price Hike

The price of sugar in Lautoka supermarkets skyrocketed on Tuesday 22 March. I was at the Lautoka market at around 11 am when the wife of a market vendor showed me the cash receipt which read $6.75. One unusual thing about the receipt was that it did not give the unit price or the quantity bought. It just had Sugar and the total amount. And the receipt was not very clear. Someone wrote an article sometime ago about cash register receipts that are printed on thermal paper. Was it done like that so that the price of the items would disappear in a short time?  Receipt need to be in ink that is readable for a long time.

At around 6 pm I was at the Lautoka market and met juice sellers who told me that the price of sugar had increased. Some of them had bought sugar in the morning and it had cost them around $4 for 4 kilograms, those who went a few hours later had to pay $6.75.

There a few questions that I’m sure the rest of the citizens —and the juice vendors— would like to ask:
  • How did the price go up without any prior indication in the media from authorities?
  • Is the sugar they bought imported or local?
  • If it is imported, will the price come down again if local sugar is once again sold?
Many people are feeling the pinch of price hikes yet their income has not increased. The price hike of sugar may force juice vendors to increase the price of the juice but they see this as a barrier to their business.

One vendor mentioned that the Previous Prices (PIB) and Income Board used to have a column in the newspapers where the PIB would show the price of basic food items and if there was going to be an price increase in any item.

Something is amiss in the sudden price hike of sugar and I’m sure all shoppers would like to know what happened to cause it to skyrocket  in just one day.


Common characteristics said…
Drastic hikes in prices and empty shelves are common characteristics of dictatorships and the absence of democratic principles. The market place and democracy are not perfect but they are demonstrably better than authoritarian control and repression of freedom. Fiji, like other states in history which have suffered under the scourge of totalitarianism, will learn this realism eventually.
Charlie Charters said…
Allen, I echo the comments by the earlier writer.

Separately you will have been aware of the letter written to the Fiji Times by Mere Samisoni, the founder of Hot Bread Kitchen (Mere is my mother in law). The Commerce Commission has taken a much more aggressive approach to the pricing of bread than the previous PIB with the result that some white-loaf bread lines are discontinued or hardly produced at all, so low are the margins or non-existent even.

Separately, in an analysis done by Munro Leys, the Suva law firm pointed out that the 2010 decree giving the Commerce Commission the powers it now uses, appears to have taken away any right of appeal that used to exist under the PIB and telecommunication structures (see Vodafone's startled reaction when told by the CC that its FASANOC was illegal).

Thus the worst of both worlds: much more direct intervention by govt in market place mechanisms, and zero ability for anybody touched by the govt's actions to seek legal redress in the form of appeals.

Also, Munro Leys points out, the CC's new powers were only published on September 24 2010 but were said to have come into force on July 1 ... 11 weeks before. Huh?

Doesn't seem particularly well thought out, on several levels.
Cicero said…
"Let them eat cake..."

A famous imperative of the French Revolution purported to have come from Austrian Marie Antoinette, Queen of France, when it was remarked that the peasants were on the streets for lack of bread. This is the test of history. To ignore it is utter folly. A thinking, intelligent population must have choices. These choices must be affordable in whatever sphere. Constitutions of Liberty make this abundantly clear, The state of the economy and people's ability to make sensible choices will always win through. One caveat: these choices must be free and fair and uncoerced. Incidentally, Queen Marie-Antoinette lost her head for those unfamiliar with history. People require affordable choices in every sphere of their lives. Water is not a choice - it is inconsistent with cake. No apology has been heard from the Ministry responsible for Essential Services? Another test.

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