Price gouging reported in San Pedro during Hurricane Beryl preparation

The content originally appeared on: Amandala Newspaper

by Charles Gladden

SAN PEDRO TOWN, Ambergris Caye, Fri. July 5, 2024

In the days leading up to a possible landfall of Hurricane Beryl near Belize’s coast, Belizeans were stocking up on groceries in case Hurricane Beryl should land in their respective areas. Fortunately, the storm shifted, impacting northern Mexico, with Belize receiving minimal rain; however a lot of shopkeepers – especially on the islands – had significantly raised the prices of their goods, which residents felt compelled to purchase.

“This is something that, while it manifested itself more clearly in the threat of Hurricane Beryl, we have received several complaints from different people about price gouging. Not only the bread product, but also basic food items that are looking sky-high that are not justified, but as well as other materials we buy, especially plywood,” said Hon. Andre Perez, area representative of San Pedro Town. “We had an incident where three different hardware stores were selling more than $115 for a half-inch plywood; it’s unacceptable. While it is illegal, we need to call them out; and that’s why we’re not happy about it,” he added.

While Minister Perez mentioned that it is illegal for business establishments to raise their prices on goods in the time of a disaster, one store in San Pedro Town received major backlash on social media, as it was reported that the store was selling a 16-ounce loaf of bread for $5. That price for bread outraged the Belizean public on social media, as a typical price for that specific bread elsewhere on the island would be between $3.00 and 4.50.

Some unconfirmed reports to Amandala suggested that at that specific store, the items are priced higher than at other stores because the items are considered “name brand”, but Minister Perez says that it is not true.

“That’s not normal! Other stores don’t sell that bread at five dollars,” he said. “We have two receipts – one is for five dollars and the other is for four dollars – and that is a standard 16-ounce loaf, so that is unacceptable. There are many complaints that this particular store is known for price gouging; not for local consumers but for the tourists, because they have no idea what are the prices here. They are paying because they think it’s normal, but it’s not,” Perez outlined.

According to Perez, a meeting has been held with the Emergency Operation Center (EOC) on this matter, and the stores on the island have been penalized for price gouging. Not only in San Pedro Town is price gouging evident, but on the mainland, where 10 stores located in. Belmopan and Belize City have reportedly been ticketed for such acts.