Senator proposes probe into coffee price hike some call ‘one more tax’
A measure filed in the island Senate would order the Agriculture Department to submit a detailed report on how it will use the money collected from an increase Wind: From E 17 mph in the price of coffee.
Says Agriculture Dept. must provide details on how proceeds from increase will be used
By THE STAR STAFF
Agriculture Secretary Ramón González Beiró will have to render an account before the island Senate regarding the use of the millions of dollars that the agency he leads will receive from the increase in the price of coffee.
Arecibo District Sen. Elizabeth Rosa Vélez announced the filing of legislation to investigate the reasons behind the increase in the price of coffee and the repercussions for consumers.
Last week, the Department of Consumer Affairs (DACO by its Spanish acronym) authorized the increase in the price of coffee.
The measure orders the Agriculture Department to submit a detailed report on how it will use the money collected.
“Knowing how the money collected from the increase in coffee will be invested is a serious matter that the country should know about,” the senator said. “Experts linked to the industry allege that the increase established by the Department of Consumer Affairs and endorsed by Agriculture is one more tax since it does not benefit coffee growers at all.”
“For this reason, it is necessary to know how the money collected will be invested and to validate the supposed grounds that the government in power has for increasing prices,” Rosa Vélez continued. “Coffee for decades has been one of the most consumed products in Puerto Rican homes and families are the ones that will have to adjust their budgets to deal with the increase.”
Puerto Rico Coffee Roasters general manager Germán Negrón said publicly that the increase established by DACO translates to $1 more than the price consumers currently pay on the shelves. He also argued that the decision lacks an economic study and does not consider the needs of coffee growers.
Meanwhile, Association of Coffee Purchasers and Processors President Miguel López Hernández thanked DACO Secretary Hiram Torres Montalvo and González Beiró on Sunday for the price increase.
“We are very appreciative of Secretary of Agriculture González Beiró for his bravery and perseverance for the changes that must be made in the coffee industry,” López Hernández said. “He has given us confidence and hope. We also thank the new secretary of DACO for establishing a new order in coffee prices, which without doubt has arrived to guarantee a product of better quality for the tables of consumers, and at the same time sets the foundation to promote the country’s coffee industry.”
Rosa Vélez contended that “When I analyze the public statements of different experts on the subject of coffee or businessmen linked to this sector, the reality is that there are serious questions that both the Department of Agriculture and DACO have to explain.”
The senator also highlighted that the measure she filed additionally inquires about the duration or permanence of the announced increase and how it will impact local coffee production.
“It is our obligation as senators to care for the well being of consumers, which is why this investigation is so important,” she said. “The government has an obligation to be transparent, and unfortunately, this increase raises serious questions. We will follow up on the legislative process so that the measure is dealt with as soon as possible.”
The Senate Economic Development, Essential Services and Consumer Affairs Committee will evaluate the measure. Rosa Vélez stressed that she would use other methods that the Senate allows to investigate the issue, which she said lacks benefits for both consumers and the island’s coffee sector.
González Beiró announced an increase of $3.42 per bushel, to $18 per bushel.