The Government’s initiative to maintain the stability of staple food item prices has seen a surge in participation, with 57 new food stores joining the original list of 200 within just four days. This ambitious scheme, set to kick off on 1st February, aims to stabilise the recommended retail prices of approximately 400 essential grocery items by a minimum of 15%.
In a conversation with The Journal, Minister for Economy, Enterprise, and Strategic Projects, Silvio Schembri, spoke of the enthusiasm shown by smaller grocery stores since the announcement of the scheme last Thursday.
“From the very day we unveiled this plan to the subsequent Sunday, the interest from smaller stores was tangible,” Schembri stated. “From Sunday to today, their numbers have substantially increased.”
According to Minister Schembri, this underscores the inclusive nature of the scheme. “It’s evident that smaller grocery stores are subscribing willingly and engaging with the Government on this initiative. This reflects a strong sense of community and industrial harmony among those owning businesses and employing workers in this sector. When everyone prioritises the national interest, our collective goals become achievable,” he added.
In light of the challenges that are posed by large foreign supermarket chains, which are increasingly marking their presence in Malta, we questioned the Minister about the potential added impact on small shops.
“We operate in an open market. The government cannot, and should not, impede economic activity from entering the country,” Minister Schembri responded, emphasising the necessity of competition in a healthy market.
However, he reassured that small shops are not being overlooked. In fact, to mitigate the impact of reduced profit margins, small stores – especially those unable to leverage economies of scale and with a turnover not exceeding €800,000 – will receive a government subsidy of €125 per month. The Minister described this financial assistance as a crucial element of the scheme, ensuring the viability of small businesses.
Furthermore, it is mandated that importers extend the same reduced pricing to small stores as agreed upon with larger retailers.
All participating products and stores will be listed on a dedicated website, set to go live on 1st February. This platform is designed to facilitate the involvement of small grocery stores in the scheme.
As February approaches, the scheme’s impact on the retail landscape and its contribution to the livelihoods of small and large business owners will definity be making the headlines consistently.
Read more: Food price intervention: questions answered
Main photo: Kampus Production