Rota stores running out of rice

STORES on Rota are again running out of rice and other commodities due to long-standing shipping problems, according to an employee of one of the stores  who declined to be identified. The employee said their rice supply will last for a few days only, adding that  the last time a shipment arrived was in December.

In a separate phone interview, Pete Dela Cruz, president of Rota Merchandising, said the port of Rota cannot unload shipments because its mobile crane has been broken for three months now.

His company handles the arrivals, departures, bookings and bill of lading for shipping companies on Rota.

Currently, Dela Cruz said some commodities are brought to Rota by plane which results in “very high prices.”

He added, “There is a small boat, about 24 to 25 feet, that brings commodities from Guam, but it is also having some mechanical problems — not to mention the rough waters over the past several weeks now.”

According to the store employee, they have to pay Star Marianas 55 cents per pound of any product flown to Rota. A 10-pound bag of rice for example will cost $5.50. This will be added to its store-price which is $14.99.  On Saipan, a 10-pound bag of rice is sold for $6.99

Soda and beers are the other commodities flown from Guam to Rota. Right now, a can of soda on Rota costs $1.35 and a case of beer is $39.99. The prices on Saipan are 85 cents per can of soda while a case of the cheapest beer costs about $20.

The Rota store employee said because of the high prices of commodities, demand is low and stores are losing money.

Commonwealth Ports Authority Executive Director Christopher Tenorio in a separate interview said the broken crane at the Rota port belongs to Rota Terminal & Transfer, a stevedoring company.

Viola Atalig, general manager of Rota Terminal & Transfer, which has an exclusive contract with CPA to handle the stevedoring services at the Rota port, said: “At this time our crane is not in service, and still under repair.”

She said they have already sent the parts to Guam for repair “and we should be hearing from [the repair shop] by the end of this month.”

Atalig added that they have another crane coming from Guam “but the water these days are too rough so it can’t be shipped to Rota.”

She said they understand the dire situation of the people on Rota, and that’s why “we are also trying to bring in another crane from Guam.”