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High prices flood 'Curry': Vendors struggle to adapt as dry spell takes toll

Published:Friday | July 18, 2014 | 12:00 AM
Melon vendor Ian Barrett talks about the water crisis being faced at the Coronation Market. - photos by Jermaine Barnaby/Photographer
Nina Bell-Bradford, farmer from Manchester, shows some of the produce she still had available at Coronation Market in Kingston yesterday, despite the ongoing dry spell affecting the island.

Davion Smith, Gleaner Writer

Farmers and vendors alike are feeling the burn of what is starting to look like the hottest and driest time Jamaica has seen in years. One farmer has resorted to selling pants and pillows until it rains.

"Bwoy, it nuh pretty, [but] mi cyah jus lie down and tek it suh … . Mi haffi find another way fi live so mi buy pillows, shoes and pants fi gwaan sell, since di drought," 40-year-old Randal Redman, a farmer and newly converted clothes vendor, told The Gleaner yesterday.

"Lawd a massy! Di rain not even a fall, which mek tings worse," Redman added.

Redman, who farms in St Ann and sells his produce in the Coronation Market in downtown Kingston, said he had no choice but to increase the prices of the crops that managed to survive the crisis.

"Di people dem deh bawl seh things dear, but a di dry weather. Right now, tomato sell fi $120 a pound … . It used to sell fi $25, $30, $40 di most," Redman said.

"Scallion a $20, $30, but right now it a sell fi $120 because di rain naah fall."

The costs of fruits like watermelon and cantaloupe have also gone through the roof, with prices increasing by more than 50 per cent.

Ian Barrett, another vendor in the market, said farmers rarely come to the market now because the drought has caused the demand for goods to be greater than the supply.

"Farmer nuh have no reason fi come here. Farmer a get him price a country … any price him ask, because you have more buyers than goods down there now. So anything di farmer say, a dat dem haffi work wid. Higgla nah no choice yah now, 'cause nutten nuh deh deh." Barrett said.

"When tings a sell $10 a pound, you find farmers here nuff. When it wagga wagga (an abundance of produce), tings nuff … . Yes, man! All melon sell fi $10 when time come, even five dollar! As big as you see dem," Barrett added.

"When a wagga wagga, not even dog nuh want it di way it nuff," another vendor in the market added in agreement.


Redman told The Gleaner the worst was yet to come for everyone if it doesn't rain soon.

"If rain nuh fall in di next two weeks, tings a guh get dearer and dearer," he said. "If it fall, yuh still haffi go wait [before things get better] because crops not going to just come in overnight. You haffi wait another two or three months for crops to come in … . It gonna take a little while."

Head of the weather branch of the Meteorological Service of Jamaica, Evan Thompson, told The Gleaner that the prospects of rainfall are slim and Jamaica might get a declaration of drought soon.

"A drought has not been declared [yet]; there is a dry spell. We are close [to a drought] and it might be declared later on in the month."

Vendors in the Coronation Market are also feeling the effects of the water worries in other ways as well. They told The Gleaner that no water has been in the market and they are unable to use the bathrooms.

"Mi sitting here as a woman an' we don't have water in the bathroom. Right now, the bathroom lock up," Nina Bell-Bradford said.

Robert Hill, town clerk of the Kingston and St Andrew Corporation, said he was not aware of the conditions at the market and that he would be looking into the matter.