RURAL EXPRESS - Bog Walk fruit vendors struggling
Ruddy Mathison, Gleaner Writer
BOG WALK, St Catherine:
IT IS impossible not to encounter the scores of fruit stalls perched along both sides of the main road approaching the Bog Walk roundabout in St Catherine.
One could conclude that the competition to outsell each other must be intense given the fact that the more than 30 vendors, except for a few, are all peddling the same line of fruits.
The sight of these vendors exercising their familiar chore of holding bags of fruits and gesturing to motorists passing by to stop and purchase whatever fruit is in season is often overlooked.
This informal fruit vending in the area has spanned many decades and still remains the main source of income for all the persons involved.
Lukey Mendis, a 50-year-old Rastafarian who has been preparing and selling herbal roots extracts as well as natural herbs in the area for some 30 years, said he only survives because he does something different from the other vendors.
"I am going through a rough time right now, but I am fighting it. The people running the country just not making it any easier for us," he said, looking up from the pavement with a concerned look on his face.
Wearing a knitted hat traditionally worn by Rastafarians to protect their dreadlocks, Mendis, with a level of composure, pointed to some other shops that he said were owned by persons who started out with him but have since closed their doors because other opportunities came their way.
"I have been operating Strong Back Roots shop, selling herbal roots and natural herbs, for many years and I have made my name in the business, so people will always come looking for me," Mendis told Rural Xpress.
He said Member of Parliament for the area, Natalie Neita-Headley, visited recently and hinted at a possible removal exercise.
Meanwhile, Clare Francis, who has been selling fruits in the area for over 15 years, said despite the challenging economic times, she was not doing badly.
"It is hard work, but I stick with it and I can see my dinner," a smiling Francis told Rural Xpress.
After giving an account of how she started out working for someone else, and after the death of the person established her own business, she said a lot of her support is derived from transient western Jamaica travellers.
Francis said the Spanish Town leg of the North/South highway will affect vendors in the area. She is hoping that her plans to migrate come to fruition before that leg of the highway is commissioned.
Business not bad
Thirty-seven-year-old Devon Palmer, who inherited his snack shop business from his relatives, said business was not bad for him.
"I invest my time and energy into my business, so I see some good results," he stated.
Apart from operating the little snack shop, Palmer also does farming to supplement his income. He admitted making more money from cultivating crops such as corn, pepper, cabbage and other vegetables.
Like Francis, Palmer is of the view that the commissioning of the highway will affect businesses in the area.
According to him, a lot of persons using the Bog Walk gorge do not feel comfortable doing so and are waiting for the highway to open in order to bypass flat bridge.
The vendors say they think it would be prudent for the political representatives to meet with them before the commissioning of the highway to discuss some of the problems they perceive will affect their operations. Some of the vendors told Rural Xpress that they intend to diversify their operation to include selling other agricultural produce.
They all alluded to a formalisation of their operations by the relevant authorities to give them an opportunity to put in place important sanitary amenities for themselves and customers.