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Thursday, November 16, 2006

Rising prices hit fetes

Well, I knew this was coming so no surprise today that the Business Guardian (read religiously by the hubby) reports on what we fete goers can expect for the Carnival 2007 season..higher prices! And, if you read any online newspaper you will see reports of chicken prices as well as vegetable prices expected to rise this Christmas season. The inflation rate for this year is 9.6 %, and this from a country which rakes in billions of dollars in oil!! I for one know that the fetes I will be going to for Carnival 2007 will be FEW indeed. The high cost of my costume is enough as I have justified it as being a big, fun loving, all-inclusive party for two days, but I am not supporting the higher prices for fetes as well especially since this year the all-inclusives left me lacking!

Tribe general manager Gerard Ramirez, left, and bandleader Dean Ackin, at the band’s Rosalino Street, Woodbrook mas camp. Photo: Karla Ramoo

With inflation officially at 9.6 per cent, those looking forward to the Old Year’s Night parties and Carnival fetes can expect to dig deeper to pay for those all-inclusive brams.

Ali Khan, Hilton Trinidad general manager, said with increases in the price of imported and locally-produced liquor, Customs duties, container fees and clearance brokerage costs, the hotel has to pay more for everything it uses.

“Middle people, from whom we buy, they have their profits and mark-ups, so by the time items land by us, it’s already much higher,” Khan said in an interview on Monday. “We’re the largest consumer in the hotel industry.”

He produced a file containing newspaper articles of recent increases based on Central Bank inflation reports: meat, 10.2 per cent; fish, 38 per cent; fruits, 17.3 per cent, and vegetables, 69.3 per cent.

The Hilton Trinidad had in 2005 three Old Year’s Night parties: $1,499 for a seven-course dinner that included champagne at the La Boucan; a $1,199 buffet dinner in the ballroom and an early morning breakfast; and a $275 pool party.

Khan said he couldn’t yet say how much more those same three parties would cost, but he is sure they would cost more.

“We’re now looking at the menus. We’re going to look at what people will be able to spend,” Khan said. “We can’t increase (the prices) by $200 and $300. It won’t fly. People won’t buy.”

Food and liquor costing more aside, Khan said other increases affect the hotel: electricity rates going up as of November 1, decorations, music bands, deejays, advertising, promotions, paper, printing.

And the list goes on.

“Everyone’s expectations is that this time they must charge you more,” Khan said.

He said hotel management at one time considered having one big Old Year’s Night bash instead of three, but decided to go ahead with three out of tradition.

He said that for the second year, the hotel has been tendering for the supply of bulk supply of fish, vegetables, fruits and construction items, but not many contractors are interested in tendering because they are too busy.

“They don’t have the time to tender,” Khan said.

And the two best suppliers picked from those tendered have difficulty meeting delivery demands and sticking to the terms of the tender, Khan said.

“Now, maybe three may tender, out of which, there’s very limited return for what you’d normally have expected,” Khan said.

Carnival band Tribe’s Dean Ackin and Gerard Ramirez said inflation will affect their prices for the four events they usually have for the season.

Last year, Tribe’s ultra-inclusive event of Johnnie Walker Green, Black and Dewars 12 and hors d’oeuvres and caviar, cost between $400 and $420.

“Without doing any sort of costing yet, we’re estimating at least a $25-$50 increase in price, and that is small,” Ackin said. “Our cost per plate of food per masquerader will go up. Expect that to definitely increase—$5 and $10 more a plate—on average. We’re now getting quotes.”

General manager Ramirez said, “We have to look at our cost management. We have to be innovative because there is only so much the public is willing to pay and we are very sensitive to that.”

Ackin and Ramirez said price consideration will cause Carnival partygoers to “pick and choose” the fetes they want to go to.

“So, whereas last year they may have gone to five all-inclusives, because prices have gone up or will be going up, they may go to three,” Ackin said.

They predicted, too, that the higher-priced events will cost more in 2007.

There are some quotes suppliers of services are giving Ackin and Ramirez that they feel are not justified.

For instance, two years ago they paid a contractor between $30,000 and $40,000 to transport sound systems on Carnival Monday and Tuesday.

“Now we have some people asking for $70,000 and $75,000 for a truck,” Ackin said.

The reason: Ramirez said the contractors are saying their labour costs have gone up because they have to pay attractive sums to get men to work on those two days.

Not only have duties on imported alcohol gone up by 30 per cent, but so too have other factors associated with alcohol.

Gabriel Faria, Angostura’s marketing director, said the spirits company’s inputs—glass, labels, molasses—have gone up.

Faria said glass supplier, Carib Glass, raised its prices in March by 25 per cent.

“It’s more practical to buy from Carib than import because we don’t have have to deal with the logistics and freight of importing glass,” Faria said.

Angostura, which imports its labels from Canada, has had to pay a 12 per cent mark-up as of August.

Throw into the mix the cost of molasses—used to make rum—which went up by more than 100 per cent within the last year.

“Once molasses goes up, rum goes up. Molasses, although it’s produced here, is priced against international prices,” Faria said.

“Currency exchange rates in different markets have affected some prices. If the rate of the Euro or US dollar goes up, that means when converted here, affects prices, too.”

Faria said the $10 increase in the price per bottle of Black Label and White Oak in October means only a 50 cent increase in the price of a drink of rum, but bars tend to raise their prices way above that.

Referring to the excise duty on scotch, Faria said most brands went up by $20, which will be reflected in the price of all-inclusive events.

“I would expect tickets will go up by between $50 and $100,” Faria said.

Gerad Kelly's "Wonders of the World"

The Trinidad Guardian today features Gerad Kelly's kiddes band which launched two Sundays ago:

Photos: Frankie Moreno

A former national cricketer and King of Carnival favourite, Gerald Kelly launched yet another of his kiddies Carnival bands—Wonders of the World—at Jean Pierre Complex recently.

A tribute to the environment, Kelly’s C2K7 presentation is based on phenomena, both man-made and natural, including the Great Wall of China, rain forests, waterfalls and volcanoes.

As with all of Kelly’s launchings, specially designed with children in mind, there was an abundance of live performances, and kiddies fun items like hoopla and bran tub.

Entertaining the young ones were boy band Surge, Metro & Darkie, The Hazell Sisters, Rankin’ Spankin’ and Black Dragon Society. Surge also treated guests to its newest single, Deception, complete with new dance moves .

During Surge’s performance of its single In Your Timing, the sound system went bust and the kids sang the entire song while the artistes went through the song’s dance routine, amazing the guys in the group.

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