Prices of some types of fresh produce have doubled at the Southern Wholesale Market in Debe following last weekend’s extensive flooding and vendors also believe price hikes and price gouging are keeping customers away.
When a T&T Guardian team visited the market this week, the usual traffic and crowds were non-existent.
Vendor Rickey Maynard said, "Usually the market is full of people but today it is dead. We are waiting to see if we get some more customers by the late evening. Today, hardly anyone came to buy and many people are watching how they spend."
Maynard said some wholesale crops were now so expensive it was not possible to buy them.
"Cucumbers sold for $500 a bag compared to $250 last week. If we buy that for $500, what price will we sell it?
“This week we decided not to buy any caralie, string beans, saime and cucumbers because the wholesale prices were too high and we knew we would get trouble retailing the goods," Maynard said.
Vendor Lynette Basdeo, who was retailing string beans for $22 per pound and saime for $20 per pound, said goods were scarce and this was causing prices to shoot up.
"People know that lots of farmers suffered losses so those who have goods have doubled the prices. Carilli is selling for $12 a pound and sweet peppers are selling for $15 a pound," Basdeo said.
The T&T Guardian also noticed a disparity in prices. One vendor sold large foreign tomatoes for $15 a pound while another sold medium-sized local tomatoes for $20 a pound. The vendor could not explain why foreign tomatoes which were not affected by the floods were being sold for $15.
"This is coming from the States and we paying a high price for it so we have to sell it for $15," he explained.
Another vendor, Rooplal Neckcheddy, said he paid $500 a bag for 72 pounds of cucumbers which sold for $250 last week. He said the items which rose considerably were tomatoes, cucumbers and melongene. However, he denied the floods caused these price hikes, saying these crops are expensive in the lead-up to Divali.
Several customers who were interviewed said the high price of goods was affecting them.
Charmaine Gangadhar said, "I am going back to plant my kitchen garden because I cannot afford to pay these prices."
She said she had already purchased some pots to grow green seasonings at home.
Another customer, Marilyn Agard, said there was no reason for the price of foreign produce to increase.
"People just exploiting the public by charging exorbitant prices. Why should foreign tomatoes and foreign cabbage prices double? Those produce were not affected by the floods," she explained.
Ground provision prices, as well as ochroes, remained the same as last week. Ochroes sold for $25 for 100 ochroes while pimentoes sold wholesale for $300 a bag. Sweet potatoes and eddoes sold for $6 per pound while yam sold for $10 per pound.
- by Radhica De Silva. Photo by Kristian De Silva