Gov. Carlos Romero Barcelo told the Puerto Rican people yesterday evening they will have to pay more than double the $1.25-a-pound subsidized price they have been paying for coffees.
The governor said failure by the previous administration of ex-Gov. Rafael Hernandez Colon to provide sufficient incentive to Puerto Rican coffee growers resulted in a disasterously low coffee harvest here this year.
Industry souces said the government has told them informally they will be authorised to sell roasted coffee for $3 a pound. This compared with about $3.50 a pound currently being charged in the Washington, D.C. area.
Puerto Rico used to be a coffee-exporting island prior to the post war industrialization boom here. But according to figures mentioned by the governor, this year's harvest won't even supply half of the local demand for ground and roasted coffee.
Current government projections see some 16 million pounds of coffee being produced here during the current harvest season, lower than had been forecast.
Consumption in Puerto Rico is more than twice the harves.
THe abandonment of the coffee-price subsidy, Gov. Romero said, was needed to avoid a cost of some $40 million this fiscal year to offset the difference between the controled retail prices in Puerto Rico and the world market price of coffee.
But the move has longer-range implications Romero campigned last year on behalf of his pro-statehood New Progessive Party on a program of emergency economic recovery measures aimed at restoring private-section confidence in the government.
THe previous Popular Democratic Party administration incurred the wrath of some business circles by stressing "anti monopolistic" programs and price controls at the consumer level on basic necessities, mainly grocery items.
Romero charged repeatedly during his 1976 election campaign that the Hernandez Colon administration had altenated business interest here and on the U.S. mainland by its price-control and trust-busting policies.
Since his election victory Nov. 2, the new governor has reportedly followed through on a related promise - to sell off to private interests the telephone and cargo shipping utilities purchased by the Harnandez Colon administration in 1973 and 1974. Those moves were defended by the previous administration as necessary to head off pending rate increases for telephone service and for cargo shipping between Puerto Rico and the United States.
Two outside telephone companies are reportedly interested in purchasing the Puerto Rico Telephone Company previously owned by ITT before its purchase by the government here. The prospective buyers are expected to be United Telecom, a Kansas City based firm, and Bell of Canada Ltd., a subsidiary of Bell of Canada. Also, General Telephone is supposedly dickering for purchase of the Puerto Rican government utilities but is waiting for "the right moment" to submit a formal bid, according to recent San Juan newspaper report.