Monday , May 29 2023

Saba food prices significantly more expensive than in The Netherlands

Recently, the Government of the Public Entity of Saba and the website Caribisch Netwerk  have initiated price comparisons for food items on Saba, Bonaire, St. Maarten and The Netherlands.

From the published results, it does not seem very easy to accurately compare food prices in the different locations because the items purchased are not always identical so that differences in quality and volume may affect the purchase price. Also the service level of the supermarket concerned may affect the price: it costs more to maintain an “attractive” shop than a Cash&Carry type shop.

In this article we publish present the results of the different data collection in their respective articles. The conclusions are those of the authors of the articles. It is up to you to draw your own conclusions.


Let’s start with the comparisons of the Saba Supermarkets as performed by the Saba Government.

Saba price comparison 2014-02You can download this table here: Saba – corrected price comparison

The Government published the data “as is”. Saba -News is not aware of any conclusions drawn from these data nor of any follow-up.

St. Maarten

Today, Caribisch Netwerk reported that the consumer prices for food are significantly lower on St. Maarten than on Saba and Bonaire. They conclude this on the basis of  a price comparison they made in various supermarkets on SXM. Compared to the cheapest discounter in the European Netherlands, the cheapest supermarket in St. Maarten is 27 percent more expensive. The most expensive super is even 47 percent more expensive. An earlier study by Caribisch netwerk suggested that shopping in Bonaire is 44 percent more expensive than in the Netherlands , but that the  prices in Saba there still rise above far (See the exact data later in this article).

For the study they purchased  the cheapest alternative available for 24 items in categories vegetables, meat and chicken, toiletries , tea and coffee. The figures indicate that the items in The Netherlands are the cheapest at the  Lidl (U.S. $ 53.01 ) and Albert Heijn (U.S. $ 64.05 ) , followed by Sunny Foods in St. Maarten (U.S. $ 67.37 ) .

The French side

The purchases aT Le Grand Marche St. Maarten (Dutch Side) resulted in  a total of $ 78.14, i.e., 16 percent higher than Sunny Foods. However, both supermarkets are well below the prices of three supermarkets surveyed on the French side : Leader Price (U.S. $ 82.44 ) , Simply (U.S. $ 84.99 ) and Super U (U.S. $ 99.39 ) .

This picture looks somewhat distorted because there was an extremely expensive chicken ( 24.60 dollars ) on the shelves at Super U . When the chicken at all three French supers are removed from the equation , Super U is the cheapest on the French side. Le Grand Marche has prices that are comparable to those in Bonaire while Sunny Foods is by far the cheapest.

Cheaper for Saba

This would suggest that the supermarkets on the Dutch side have little to complain about their competitiveness . It may be attractive for consumers from Saba to make the crossing and also the French better spend their euro’s on the Dutch side.

How did Caribisch Netwerk proceed?

They have described their process for the price comparison Bonaire – The Netherlands.

The shopping list of Caribbean Netwerk consisted of: 1 kilo of white rice , one pound of butter , 1 white bread , 1 kilo of potatoes , 6 eggs , 1 liter of sunflower oil , 1 whole chicken ( about 1 pound ) 1 pound beef stew ( Karni stoba ) 1 pound young cheese , 1 liter of semi-skimmed milk , 1 large can kidney beans , 1 large can of peas , 1 pound carrots , 1 pound of apples, two pounds of oranges , 1 celery , 1 kilo of onions, 1 kilo of tomatoes, 1 cucumber , tea ( 20 x 4gr ) , coffee ( 250 grams ) , toilet paper , hand soap ( 3 pieces ) and detergent ( about 2.2 pounds ) .

The items were bought on Bonaire on 22 January and on 23 January in the Netherlands in Arnhem .

Caribbean Netwerk always bought the cheapest choice. In the Netherlands and Bonaire there were not always exactly the same products for sale and the most affordable choice did not always contain the same amount of product . As a result, there are differences in the brand , and sometimes in the size of the packaging . Therefore, in this study,  the volumes in Dutch supermarkets are sometimes larger than those purchased in Bonaire ( eg cheese with AH (925 grams) , pot roast at Lidl (600 grams ) and coffee ( 500 grams) and potatoes (2.5  and 3 kg ) . The price of the actual quantity purchased is considered in this study .

The exchange rate applied  is 1 EUR  = $ 1.3558 .

price comparison Bonaire - Holland

Click here to see the whole table price comparison Bonaire – The Netherlands

Price comparison  Saba – Bonaire – The Netherlands

Already some time ago, the Caribisch Netwerk published  a price comparison among Saba – Bonaire – The Netherlands. They concluded that, after conducting a survey of a selected assortment of products at the cheapest rate in four grocery stores on Saba, the results indicated that the selected items were more than two times more expensive than the cost of these same items in The Netherlands’ cheapest grocery store Lidl and 39 percent more expensive than in Bonaire’s cheapest grocery store Wing Cheung.

These items were: 1 kilo white rice, 1 pound butter, 1 white bread, 1 kilo potatoes, 6 eggs, 1 liter sunflower oil, 1 whole chicken, 1 pound gouda cheese, 1 liter skimmed milk, 1 big can of brown beans, 1 big can green peas, 1 pound carrots, 2 kilos oranges, 1 celery, 1 kilo onions, 1 cucumber, tea (20 x 4 gram), coffee (250 gram), 6 toilet paper, 3 hand soap bars and laundry detergent (2.2 kg).

Most items were bought at Saba Emporium Market, which they assumed, was the cheapest grocery store on the island, while a few other items were bought at other grocery stores because they were unavailable at Saba Emporium Market. Store Owner Christina Baidya noted that although her store carries the cheapest rates on the island, it must be considered that prices are still relatively higher than in The Netherlands primarily because of the high shipping cost and associated 6% import tax.

“I try to keep my prices as fair as possible, but really I see no profit from certain items like potato and onion after paying the cost for shipment,” said Christina. She explained that while she is charged between $1.50 and $2.00 a box for a shipment of dry goods, she still has to pay $15.00 a box for frozen goods. Cargo vessels she said insist of storing onions and potatoes in cold storage, while she feels it is not necessary. Regardless she says these items are perishable and often a large amount is disregarded before being sold.

One shopper still feels that prices on Saba are exaggerated. “The shop keepers blame taxation and shipping cost, but in the end they are still making double profit I believe. To live on a descent diet of cooked meals consisting of meats and as well buying other household items for a family of four my family spends around $350 to $400 per week,” said Maegan Hassell.

Another shopper Camile Blackman said following 10-10-10 she was of the opinion that food prices would have been easier on the pocket. “I thought we would’ve gotten better deals, subsidies and prices would have decreased, but instead it has risen two or three times higher.” “Everything that was in guilders was converted into dollars without justified conversion,” said Maegan.

Saba Emporium Market owner moreover pointed out that her prices are also associated to the high cost stipulated by suppliers in St. Maarten. Therefore the additional shipping cost from international borders has to be factored in and once arriving on Saba Christina explained she also has to factor in transporting her shipments from the harbor to her store. Private trucks charge on average $45 per load.

Shopper Patricia Nation with a family of five pointed out that she found it cheaper to shop whole sale in St. Maarten. “I have a family of five and the items are three times more when I buy them on Saba, I do shopping in St. Maarten monthly; cold storage as well as dry goods. I see my way better, because the prices are lesser than in Saba,” she said. Patricia said the only items she purchases on Saba are bread, eggs and seasoning peppers because of their perishability.

Camile said coming from Trinidad with an exchange rate of TT$6.00 to US $1.00 she is astounded to see that food prices on Saba are now more expensive than in Trinidad. “At home I can get two or three boxes of groceries for TT$400.00, which is only US $62.”

Now consider her comparison with Saba’s prices where the 21 items purchased for this survey barely filled one box and amounted to $89.80, clearly one would contemplate whether there are discrepancies in Saba’s food prices.

Click here to download the Saba – Bonaire – Holland comparison: Saba-Bonaire-NL

This last article was authored by Hazel Durand.

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