Guyana is not the only country feeling the squeeze of increased food prices; globally, prices for simple commodities like bread, cheese, milk, and even eggs have increased over the past months.
In an interview with the News Room on Friday, President of the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI) Timothy Tucker attributed the hike in food prices to the increase in global shipping costs as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The greatest cost is shipping.
“So now if you would have asked somebody who shipped a container from China – maybe a year and a half ago – the cost of that could have been about US$2000 or US$3000 for maybe a 20-foot container.
“Now it’s about US$6000 to US$7000 for a 20-foot container.
“[And] that goes to show that the cost of shipping has tripled and that will definitely affect your prices of food on the market,” Tucker explained.
And the fact that Guyana has a high food import bill, Tucker added, does not help either.
“Because you have a heavy importation bill… the cost of shipping really affects the (cost of goods) versus if we were producing and manufacturing the products [being imported].”
The GCCI President added that what should also be examined is how the pandemic affected the major manufacturing zones globally.
Countries such as India, Mexico, and Brazil which are major commodity producers, Tucker said, were hit hard by the pandemic and that created a ripple effect on the world, and Guyana.
“We know Brazil is big on farming, the nation produces a lot of commodities like soybean, which generally affects the price of oil, and one byproduct is feed. Once the cost of feed rises, that means the cost of meat rises, and that’s a ripple effect.
“Likewise, Brazil is one of the major producers of sugar and that has shown an increase of sugar prices worldwide. If you look at some of the other areas in the world that produce wheat, and things like that…you had France being affected by frost, [and] that would have resulted in the costs of cereals and things like that going up as well,” the GCCI head said.
The upward trend was even acknowledged by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in its May 6th Food Price Index.
The index which tracks monthly changes in the international prices of commonly-traded food commodities reached its highest level since May 2014 and is 30.8 percent higher than its level in the same month last year.