The Ministry of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transport & Telecommunication (TEATT) is looking into why food prices on the island remain persistently high in comparison to Aruba and Curaçao, despite having similar economies. One of the ministry’s priorities is to prevent price gouging and to promote fair competition. The ministry reviewed a recent study on price developments and logistics in the region commissioned by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The study described St. Maarten’s import supply chain as having an effective competition with steady imports from the EU and the US. In other words, the risk of artificially high prices within the shipping market is minimized because of a sufficient number of operators, according to the study.
Compared to Aruba and Curacao, it further points out that St. Maarten has no import-duty and a lower shipping cost. These factors should lead to relatively cheaper prices. However, the report expresses doubts about the degree of competition in St. Maarten’s food distribution market, where an oligopoly situation exists, dominated by a few very large players who not only sell at the wholesale level but also compete at the retail level as well.
St. Maarten’s Consumer Price Index (CPI) increased by a higher percentage than that of Curacao and Aruba, the study shows, with an average rise in food prices of more than 50% over the period 2010-2016 for St. Maarten, while Aruba (+11%) and Curaçao (+20%) experiencing lower rises over the same period, despite each island having higher shipping costs and import duties.
The Ministry of TEATT will ensure that there is constant monitoring of food prices to safeguard fair competition on the island within St. Maarten. Additionally, the Ministry of TEATT will keep the public informed about food price developments and encourages consumers to be informed as much as possible so they can make better choices for themselves and their families.
The Minister of TEATT continues to consult with stakeholders including the Sint Maarten Hospitality and Trade Association (SHTA), the Chamber of Commerce, and the Indian Merchants Association (IMA).