'Coal people' struggle with Sandy wood

Published: Tuesday | November 13, 2012 Comments 0
Charcoal vendor Sharon carries a bag of coal on her head. - Gladstone Taylor/Photographer
Charcoal vendor Sharon carries a bag of coal on her head. - Gladstone Taylor/Photographer

Daviot Kelly, Staff Reporter

With all the downed trees and branches, one might conclude the coal supplier would be making the figurative killing.

But 'coal people' in St Catherine, are saying this is not so. Residents of Caymanas Bay and Glade, both off the Mandela Highway, say that burning and selling charcoal is the primary source of income for many in the area, but Hurricane Sandy has not brought the windfall some might expect.

They say the first problem is they can't access all the raw material they would need.

"There's plenty of trees but we still need a power saw," said Susan Morgan, who burns and sells coal. She said it costs up to $7,000 to rent a chainsaw for the day. Those persons who cut for free are taking those pieces for themselves.

"Up at Glade, is a whole forest, woodland. Because of Sandy, trees even came down in the road," Morgan continued. "Di wood dem pop dung but we can't get to cut dem up."

Her friend and fellow coal seller Judith Reynolds, said the cost of the saw doesn't work out in the sales.

"But we need them (saws) because the cutlass can only trim up the smaller pieces. We can't manage the big wood."

Generally, though, selling coal hasn't brought much revenue this year. Lynette Morrison who also owns a little shop in Caymanas Bay, said the last time there was a 'boom' in their coal selling was sometime last year when there were heavy rains.

"Mi a try get all a di coal mi can but it really nah sell like one time," she said.

"Mi have coal sometimes until di bag all a spoil." The women said customers are not willing to pay over $500 for a bag of coal.

"We would a really want to charge $600 for a bag but dem always a tell you $450," said Morgan. "But because you want the sale, you sell it to them."

What annoys them is they believe many of the people they sell to, make a profit when they sell the coal.

"Dem sell it for all $1,000 enuh but dem nuh want spend more for it from we," said Reynolds.

Morrison said she expected there may be a rise in sales during December as many people are baking, and having family get-togethers hence the need to roast breadfruit and other activities. But right now, the goal is to get enough coal to satisfy any possible demand.

"If mi can get di wood, mi wi have coal this week. Sandy gimme dem, so mi haffi try use it," said Morrison.


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