The pawpaws are plentiful, but the buyers are few. And for this reason, local farmer Arthur Smith has resorted to virtually giving them away from the roadside.
The St Lucy farmer, who has specialized in pawpaw production for the last 15 years, sells to wholesalers and retailers. However, he is struggling to get his produce sold this year, and has almost two tonnes on his hands.
“We have a surplus, so I have to sell from the side of the road rather than throwing them away. I’m selling them at a reduced price now. Two for $10, or sometimes three,’ he told Barbados TODAY from Warrens, St Michael, where he has set up to sell his produce.
In addition, Smith said he gave some away to the district hospitals and the psychiatric hospital.
In seeking to explain the reason for his plight, Smith blamed an invasion of imported fruit.
“I sell to wholesalers and persons who retail, but because of the influx of the imports it is difficult because the importers have direct access to the hotels and supermarkets. When the backup started, I realized that the supermarket was filled with imported pawpaws. This is something that needs to be looked into. At a time like this I find it to be disgraceful that things we can easily produce and I’m producing [are being imported].
“I’m producing and some of the same guardians of the heritage of the country are allowing people to borrow foreign exchange, to allow merchants to bring in the things we are producing here and selling them. I consider it to be utter madness. I think it’s very unfortunate at a time like this for people that should know better.”
The farmer has been down this road before, having dealt with a similar problem once in the past. Only he did not believe then that the imported fruits were the culprits.
With supermarkets not buying from him, Smith told Barbados TODAY he felt as though he had been blacklisted.
“For some of the supermarkets I’m on an embargo because there are some black people in this country when they get a certain opportunity they take it upon themselves to kick other black people in their face, and when they say something about it, they blank you. So I have been blanked, but nevertheless I sell to some people who trade to the same supermarkets,” he added.
Smith’s predicament has caught the attention of Chief Executive Officer of the Barbados Agricultural Association (BAS) James Paul, who described it as disheartening.
Paul also called on the business community to work with farmers to develop a workable system through which they can source local produce.
“It makes no sense to have farmers out there growing hundreds of acres of produce and when it is time for it to be produced you have members of the business community saying to them, ‘we will not or we cannot buy your produce’ just for a lack of coordination. They find every excuse to do it,” Paul said.
As for Smith’s plight, Paul pledged that by next week his organization would take “some steps” to assist.
“We in the BAS have agreed on some steps which we are going to use to assist Mr Smith. The work will be done by next week. We need to work with Mr Smith and see how we can help him. They are some lovely pawpaws and we can’t let them go to waste,” he said.