SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - Faction Leader in Parliament for the United People's UP Party the honorable Grisha Heyliger-Marten is calling for an urgent Public Meeting of Parliament to discuss the alarming rise in food cost on St Maarten and seek ways through legislation to stop what could potentially result in a food crisis.
Her concern comes from the outcry of many within the community and a three-year-old study, which somehow was never brought to the public. The study commissioned in May 2017 by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs shows St. Maarten’s food price rose by 53 percent between 2012 and 2017. That rise is double the increase in food price of both Curacao and Aruba who were subjects of the study.
Heyliger-Marten said on Sunday her goal is to submit some proposals to Minister of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transport and Telecommunications TEATT and to bring a motion to Parliament that instructs the Minister to find ways to reduce food costs so low income earners can feed themselves and their children.
Matters at home and abroad are of importance to me as a Member of Parliament and what should be asked is why this report, which speaks about the alarmingly high cost of food and its negative affect on the people of St. Maarten, was not addressed before.
One way to provide some relief to residents according to MP Heyliger-Marten is Heyliger-Marten is urgently reinforce School-based food programs, especially now with the return of face-to-face learning, as part of her recommendations to address the rapid rise in food price on St. Maarten. “We must put our people's needs above everything else and do something to stop their suffering."
"It is difficult for families to put food on their tables today. We must realise that food insecurity creates significant health and educational challenges as children cannot get the nourishment they need to live and learn. "We must put our people's needs above everything else and do something to stop their suffering." "It is difficult for families to put food on their tables today. We must realise that food insecurity creates significant health and educational challenges as children cannot get the nourishment they need to live and learn.
MP Heyliger-Marten calls the details of a May 2017 study on the rapid rise in food prices in St. Maarten is "alarming." She warns that if nothing is done to reduce food price, this will plunge St. Maarten into a food crisis. When compared to the other Dutch Caribbean Islands, the Report, called the "Ecorys Report," shows food price increase by more than twice the amount in St. Maarten compared to Aruba and Curacao. The Report recommends promoting fair competition, strengthening consumers' position and reviewing the permit systems for supermarkets as a means of breaking the "strong concentration of power around a few market players."
The Report also states that contrary to popular belief, the transportation/shipping costs play a small role in the overall retail price on St. Maarten. The Supply Chain on St. Maarten, according to the Report, leaves a lot to be desired.
MP Heyliger-Marten said Sunday the high food prices must be addressed quickly mainly when faced with the reality of a significant economic decline and health crisis. "We cannot wait until the price of food rises to such a level that we create a food crisis, and we must do something because already too many of our citizens are living below the poverty line and this does not help. Minimum wage is still meagre, and single parents are struggling, even more, today at the supermarkets because of the rapid increase in food price."
She said, "Since the extreme poverty line is determined by the cost of the basic food basket, people living below this line do not have sufficient income to cover basic food costs. As food prices increase, the most vulnerable are faced with new and growing concerns. This means that the downturn in the economy will have an impact on the food security of the people.
The MP expressed is the question of comparing prices on French St. Martin with that of the Supermarkets on Dutch St. Maarten. She said there must be a multilateral cooperation effort put in place immediately to prevent St. Maarten from entering into a food crisis. According to the Ecorys Report entitled: Aruba, Curacao, and Sint Maarten- Study on price developments and logistics in the Region, "All the islands in the Kingdom faced severe price increases from the period 2012 -2017. The Cost Analysis for St. Maarten, in essence, showed that even though transport costs tend to be lower (because of the closer proximity to Miami and Rotterdam), taxes slightly higher, the wholesaler’s profits are larger, and prices are higher.