By Troy Torres
Matson shipping wants its only competitor in this region - APL - kicked out. The Hawaii-based company that poses as the hometown carrier is suing the U.S. Maritime Administration for the third time to get rid of its only competition and restore its monopoly.
But that monopoly Matson had before APL came onto the market is what led, arguably, to deepening poverty as the so-called hometown carrier stiffed the peoples of our islands with increased shipping prices.
The $7,000 to $9,000 fee Matson charges the civilian community in Guam per container might be markedly more if APL wasn't forcing a market adjustment with its fees between $4,000 and $6,000 per container.
How does this translate to you and me, and our pocketbooks? In the normal course of life, the everyday citizen will never be a direct customer of Matson or APL. We won't need to ship a container anywhere, or to order a container-load of products. But since 95 percent of everything we consume does get shipped on those containers, and the gas and oil we use for our cars and to power our homes arrives on ships, we know that the prices we pay on nearly everything is affected by what Matson charges.
Shipping is the single-largest cost factor on the markup of everyday products sold in this region. Nothing illustrates this point better than seeing the prices of products on store shelves in the U.S. mainland, then comparing those same products on Guam.
And thanks to one of our viewers, who recently took a vacation to Arizona, and also to our very own Johnnie Rosario, who recently was in Whiteman, Missouri, we're able to get a glimpse into how much Matson makes at our expense on a product-by-product basis.
A $6 bag of beef jerky on Guam costs $3.98 in the midwest. Crayons at Walmart were on sale last week for 35 cents. The regular price was 64 cents.
In Missouri, 32 bottles of water will cost you $3.98. One bottle of Essentia water will cost you $4.25 in some stores on Guam.
Blocks of butter that cost you $7 locally are being sold stateside for $3.49. Packages of sliced deli meat going for $9 here are going for less than $5 there.
Angus-certified chuck roast costs nearly 50 percent less per pound in Whiteman, Missouri than in Guam.
Fruits and veggies, which have become unaffordably expensive on Guam over the past few years, sale for pennies on the dollar we pay here versus stateside. You know that $8 little plastic container of strawberries on the Payless shelves? They're $1.98 in Arizona.
The $5 loaves of bread we're used to cost $1.99 in the border state. Seven-dollar boxes of cereals on Guam sale for 99 cents there. A carton of eggs that local stores charge us $3.99 to buy cost the Arizonian people $1.19. And a gallon of milk that costs us $8 here, is selling for $2.99 there.
Shipping is the culprit.
And it isn't just groceries. Clothes, electronics, cars, furniture, parts; almost everything is more expensive than need be. We're already paying through the nose for the cost of electricity to power our homes, and we're staring down the barrel of another power rate increase. Look at the image of the cost of a gallon of gas in Missouri just last week. The last time gas cost that little on Guam, was in the early 2000s.
Shipping is the culprit, and Matson is trying to kick out its only competitor as most people are struggling already as it is. If Matson succeeds and behaves as it did the last time it had a monopoly, what do you think will happen to the prices on the store shelves, and the cost of gas and electricity?
Where are our leaders in both business and government? How do any of them think it's ok to just let this issue go?