Sunday 1st May, 2005


Politics in flour

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Vasant Bharath, CEO at Nutrimix Flour Mills, right, shows off Nutrimix’s new product to Sid de Freitas of the Bakers’ Association, centre, and Balliram Maharaj, owner ADM supermarket. Photo: shirley Bahadur


Flour is definitely a political product, said Balliram Maharaj, owner of Arima Discount Mart. Maharaj, a former president of the Supermarkets Association of T&T, said there were people who would “ill-speak” Country Pride, the newest flour brand on the market, a product of Nutrimix Flour Mills at Pt Lisas, Couva.

“When we go out there, people will try all kinds of things to ill-speak this product,” he said.

“Let us know what kinds of problems you have with this flour. We have to do all that is necessary to encourage competition. We have to work together as a team—manufacturers, distributors, the public.”

Vasant Bharath, CEO at Nutrimix Flour Mills, yesterday announced Maharaj’s ADM and Persad’s Wholesale and Retail, owned by Mohan Persad, as the exclusive distributors of Country Pride.

The launch of the product last year means that National Flour Mills, in which the State has majority ownership, has competition.

Maharaj’s comments were made yesterday when Nutrimix Flour Mills called a press conference at Hilton Trinidad to announce reduced prices of its products.

Present at that conference were Nutrimix director Ronnie Mohammed, Sid de Freitas and Tom Chin Fatt of the Bakers’ Association, Christopher Chin Fatt of Linda’s

Bakery, and Robin Persad of the Supermarkets Association.

Bharath was fired by the National Flour Mills board in January, 1998.

His dismissal came in the wake of a $30 million loss incurred by the company from a failed rice deal with an India-based supplier, Gangadas Shah & Sons.

Bharath, who returned to Trinidad after seven years abroad to run Nutrimix Flour Mills, said monopolies tend to create inefficiencies.

“We at Country Pride will maintain the highest standards that technology and vigilance will allow,” he said.

“We make no idle boast that our facility is truly state-of-the-art. It is by far the most sophisticated of its kind in the region.”

Bharath said Nutrimix Flour Mills’ modern mill would allow it to produce this staple item—flour—at a lower cost, which will be passed on to consumers.

He said a two kilogramme pack of flour which would retail at $8.99, would be sold for $6.99; 10 kg which sold for $39.95, would go for $32.99; and a 45 kg which was normally sold for $139, would now be sold for $119.

He did not identify the maker of the higher-priced products.

Bharath, who said Nutrimix’s tag line was “superior quality, honest prices,” said the company could afford to maintain its prices because of its plant efficiencies.

“We have to make sure we forward purchase and lock ourselves for six months to a year,” he said.

“That is what most flour mills do around the world. They hedge their purchases. It depends on the period of time you lock your purchases.”

Responding to a statement that he probably still has “friends” at National Flour Mills, Bharath replied, “I don’t discuss business with my friends.”

De Freitas said members of the Bakers’ Association had been told to absorb increases as they related to hops and butterbread and increases they envisaged should be applied to the prices of cakes and pastries.

He said since the Bakers’ Association last met with Consumer Affairs Minister Danny Montano two years ago, its members were now able to import baking equipment duty free.

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