By Aled Thomas, Local Democracy Reporter
Some food shops in Swindon have been criticised by customers for increasing the prices of staple goods in the coronavirus crisis.
But some say they haven’t and others say they have had their wholesale prices increased, and have no choice.
A member of staff at Baraka Groceries in Lagos Street said the shop has increased its prices because wholesale prices have gone up and there are fewer supplies.
He said: “We have thing like rice from three or four suppliers, not just one, and they’ve all put their prices up. And we are not getting enough. We used to get a pallet with 100 packets, and now it’s just 10.
“Vegetables have gone up as well, especially if they’re from India and not Europe. The supplier said because people are not flying now from India, it’s just cargo and the transport costs are higher, so prices have increased.”
One shopkeeper, Nazarul Ruhel, who runs Masala Bazaar in Manchester Road, said he hadn’t increased prices but supplies had been affected by panic buying: “There was panic buying in the store, and we found it difficult to get extra supplies, but we’ve had a delivery since then and we’ve got rice now.”
Upset consumers have also been talking to councillors. Coun Adorabelle Shaikh, who represents Central ward, said: “We have been inundated with people complaining about prices suddenly rising – this includes grocers in Manchester Road, Corporation Road and Groundwell Road, but all across the central area of town.
“They’re saying things like a £20 sack of rice is now priced at £40. We spoke to some of the shopkeepers and they were saying it’s the wholesalers who are putting up the prices, which the shops then have to pay.
“This is a very difficult time for everybody and I don’t think wholesalers or shops should be looking to take advantage.
Coun Shaikh added: “I think the government should act on this issue and hold the wholesalers and the shops below them in the chain below accountable. Price inflation just causes financial hardship. This behaviour is not acceptable at a time of emergency.
“People have lost jobs, it’s hitting many families hard, and if this continues people will be out of pocket.”
Coun Shaikh said she has asked the borough council’s officer to investigate and has been told they will look into the matter.
There has been a worldwide increase in the commodity prices for staples such as rice and wheat, particularly that used for pasta, as a result of the pandemic.