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Supplies Control Unit concludes second round of inspections

GeneralSupplies Control Unit concludes second round of inspections

Photo: Lennox Nicholson, Controller of Supplies

by Kristen Ku

BELIZE CITY, Thurs. Feb. 1, 2024

The Supplies Control Unit (SCU), under the Ministry of Agriculture, Food Security, and Enterprise, has concluded its second round of inspections, following its rigid monitoring of retail establishments across Belize to ensure compliance with the new Supplies Control (Prices) Regulations.

After its comprehensive sweep, which commenced on November 4, 2023, and ended mid-January 2024, the SCU has revealed that 50 out of approximately 105 to 110 visited establishments were found in violation of pricing and display regulations.

This latest enforcement wave comes on the heels of the first round of inspections, where 59 out of 112 retail outlets were ticketed for similar infractions. The first round identified these violations particularly in the Belize district, including the Cayes.

“As with anything else, we strategically select the locations that we inspected. But when you do this type of work, people adjust to what you are doing. When those adjustments are made, we in turn have to adjust the approach that we take to ensure that the results that we find are actually valid and credible,” Lennox Nicholson, Controller of Supplies, explained.

This targeted approach brought attention to establishments in previously overlooked areas such as Sarteneja in the Corozal District; Yo Creek, Guinea Grass, and San Esteban in Orange Walk; as well as Dangriga, Benque Viejo, and San Jose Succotz.

The second round of inspections also expanded its scope to include a wider range of goods, including eggs, coffee, yeast, and feminine hygiene products.

But with only so many inspectors in the unit and hundreds of stores countrywide, sometimes the most effective way the unit identifies violations is through social media.

“The volume of complaints that we get, in terms of people calling the office, is not consistent with what we are able to pick up from Facebook, because we actually look. And when we see something there that we think have merit, and it is on a product that we have jurisdiction over, we actually conduct the inspections based on those,” he said.

Nicholson urges consumers to report violations and contribute to the SCU’s efforts to maintain fair pricing and quality standards. “What we would like to ask is that when these things are observed, to please pass the information to us. And the key piece of information is actually the name of the establishments where you saw the matter that concerned you.”

Nicholson noted that the increase in output, with 109 establishments ticketed since September 2023, was close to 8 times more output when compared to 13 to 14 years ago. This he believes is a result of regulatory adjustments, increased jurisdiction over a wider range of goods, and improved operational capacity.

Thankfully, the compliance rate among businesses has been encouraging, with most paying their fines and engaging in constructive dialogue with the SCU.

The SCU has already begun to do revisits at businesses as it maintains its presence in the market.

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