The Quarter 1 2017 Statistical News Bulletin was released May 25, showing an increased inflation rate for the island.
Inflation of St Helena’s Retail Prices Index – or RPI – has grown by 7 percent within the last year.
Within the most recent quarter, the RPI grew by 2.2 percent.
Justine Joshua has worked at the Statistics Office for ten years. She said inflation rates on St Helena have been slowly but steadily increasingly for years, and that the rates are highly reliant on inflation rates overseas.
“In general, you can see the RPI Index has been increasing,” Joshua said. “But because we are heavily reliant on outside factors, I wouldn’t say it will continue to grow, and I am not going to say it will reduce drastically, because we’re not too sure what’s going to happen in the next couple months. Depending on what the rand is doing, depending on the ship, depending on what is happening overseas - things like that affect our pricing.”
Increased inflation rates of both local and imported foods accounted for 58 percent of the inflation increase from Quarter 4 of 2016 to Quarter 1 of 2017 (the most recent quarter). Increased prices of miscellaneous goods, and of fuel and other items within the transport category, also drove inflation up significantly, according to the Quarter 1 Bulletin.
Shop owners, like Jamestown’s Tracey Corker, have been dealing with inflation first-hand.
Corker has been a shop owner in Jamestown for about 10 years, and a shop owner on the island for decades. She said the increased inflation has been noticeable lately.
“We have been dealing with the inflation rates in our shops,” Corker said. “Things go up overseas, so we’ve got to put that margin up, as well as every first of April alcohol and cigarettes go up - so then it’s like two lots of increases we’ll have to put up. And then if electricity and water goes up, then it’ll be three lots of increases – on [each] item.”
While Corker is struggling with inflation rates herself, she understands increased prices are also affecting her customers.
“What I do, I try to give them discounts, so I’ll put things on special so it’ll cut it down a little bit cheaper for them,” she said. “I have specials on every month, to help them out as well.”
Joshua said she hopes everyone is looking at the Quarterly Report, and taking action toward alleviating increased inflation – either by prioritising on-island goods production, or watching their shopping baskets.
“I would hope everybody would be looking at the report and digesting the inflation rate and how it affects not only the shop owners and departments but how it affects themselves as well,” she said. “The basket does increase. Wholesales have to mitigate by either decreasing the amount of stock they get in, or increasing the price of what they do have, to make up for the freight and the buying costs.
"[But] If we can become more self-sustainable, then we are not as reliant on all the imports and so we can mitigate against freight costs and bulk buying.”
Joshua said the Quarter 2 Bulletin is set to be released in July, and will include population estimates of both residents and visitors. This information normally appears in the Quarter 1 Bulletin, but was delayed because the Statistics Department did not receive all the data on time.
The full Quarter 1 Bulletin can be found on the St Helena Government website.