Wholesalers of imported produce are being warned against exploiting vendors by overpricing their items for the sake of making a profit.
Minister of Entrepreneurship, Small Business and Commerce, Dwight Sutherland was responding to concerns raised by vendors at the Palmetto Market in Bridgetown who say the price of fruits and vegetables continues to increase.
Most of the items offered in the markets are imported and vendors say potential customers are being driven away by high prices, which they say is simply being passed on from wholesalers.
“Bananas are so expensive that I now have to sell them for $1.00,” said long-standing vendor, I-lam. He told Barbados TODAY that many loyal customers have been discouraged by the prices. He added however that people would usually come back after recognizing that his high prices were consistent with vendors across the country.
“Once upon a time I used to buy a box of apples for $85 and now a box costs $95. I used to buy a box of tamarinds for $75 or $80, but now I have to buy them for $120. So before, I could sell them for $1 or $1.25, but now I have to sell them for $1.50,” he said.
Minister Sutherland placed his support behind the vendors by asking wholesalers to “play their part as we seek to rebuild this economy.
“Vending provides employment, so if you price your products very high, then indeed our vendors have less of a chance to make a profit. We want to build out commerce in this country and we want to give people an opportunity to earn a living,” he said.
“When I count the number of vendors in this market, there are more than 25 to 30,” said Sutherland, adding: “Alongside these vendors are families that rely on them to ply their trade.”
While President of the Wayside Vendors Business Association, Keith Franklyn agreed, he warned that the situation would get worse if Barbadians failed to patronize local farmers.
“We should be bringing our own produce and dealing with our own things. With help from the minister, we hope that will work,” said Franklyn. He however added that the support of authorities in the fight to put more local items on the shelves was often lacking.
“We wrote to the Minister of Agriculture to get him to look into the market issues and we were never able to get him to respond,” he said