This week, I am writing on a subject which, on the surface, may not appear very serious but the psychological implications make me feel obliged to do so.
It’s about water. To be exact, the Trinidad-associated Crop Over bottled water which has entered the local market at the height of the celebration of our main cultural festival which climaxes
Let me be the first to admit that when a friend sent the photos of water bottles with Trini labelling of Crop Over, I immediately thought of some Trinidadian taking advantage of an opportunity and I asked myself why didn’t some fellow Bajan think of this first.
Then I thought about the anticipated public outcry that would no doubt follow. So said, so done. To add fuel to the fire, there were some comments regarding no labelling company available in Barbados which only served to further incense the public outcry.
No doubt, the Trini Crop Over labels added to the already entrenched notion that Trinidad is taking over everything in Barbados. To some Bajans, it felt as if nothing is left in Bim to call our own. After all, Trinis have Carnival. So, why can’t they leave Crop Over alone, especially since we’re celebrating 50 years of Independence this year?
Over the course of this week, the Bajan interests seemingly behind the Trini-labelled Crop Over bottled water identified themselves, no doubt to do some damage limitation. I hope that it was effective since they have invested in it and I do hope sales go swimmingly.
However, the lesson here for entrepreneurs is to ensure that in the future, the Bajan public is treated to a proper product launch so as to avoid, if not minimise, this kind of negative blowback.
So I asked myself, why would Bajans be vexed by such a product? After all, there are so many brands of bottled water on the market including Aquafina, Dasani, Evian, Perrier, Volvic, Zephyrhills, just to name a few.
Up until now, we haven’t exhibited any particular concern over their presence in the market place. Then it hit me, our water, when it is available, is known to be the best drinking water in the Caribbean. So the fact that the product is being bottled in Trinidad, may be of some concern from perhaps a water quality perspective.
Of course, that’s assuming the water is indeed sourced in Trinidad. The reason I raise the source of the water is because the Barbadian principals have indicated that everything regarding Crop Over Water had been created in Barbados, except bottling.
Taking that statement literally, then one might conclude that large quantities of water were exported from Barbados to Trinidad, bottled, labelled and re-imported. This would be absolutely incredible given that the Barbados Water Authority supposedly has instituted a water ban since the beginning of 2016.
Perhaps, this could be an explanation as to why residents in the northern-most parishes have been experiencing severe water shortages over the past year or so. My supposition is probably way off the reservation since one of the other principals indicated that they are not in the business of water.
However, given some of the negative business practices and trends that seem to have enveloped Barbados in 2016, anything is really and truly possible. When you reflect on businesses erecting structures and ignoring enforcement orders to cease construction from the Town and Country Planning Department; the importation of containers of chicken wings seemingly without the knowledge or authorization of the Barbados Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (BADMC), then it can’t be so farfetched to believe that it is indeed a possibility that water from Barbados could have been exported during a water ban.
As you might be aware by now, I am an unapologetic regionalist and I make no bones about it. So if over the course of this Crop Over weekend, I come across any Crop Over Water, I will purchase some because I’d rather support a regional effort than international water brands. Besides, if we’re going to spend foreign exchange to import water, I’d rather it go to a Trinidad company than
to multinationals that distribute the known brands.
Whatever you choose to do this Crop Over weekend, I hope you and your family do so safely and come out the other end of the Emancipation Day holiday. It’s likely to be hot out there so, please stay hydrated.
Happy Crop Over Water!
(Ryan Straughn is a UWI Cave Hill and Central Bank of Barbados-trained economist.