Produce prices stable heading into Christmas, some trending down
The adequate supply of fruits and vegetables has kept the price of high demand produce such as plummy tomatoes and sweet peppers relatively stable heading into the busy Christmas period.
In fact, some produce prices have started to trend down as farmers prepare stock to meet the demands of the festive season.
Consumers heading to market over this week into the weekend can expect to pay an average $400 per pound for produce like gungo peas, sweet peppers, tomatoes and sorrel. However, vendors in the Coronation Market in downtown Kingston warn that if consumers wait until a day or two before Christmas, then they may find themselves paying “last-minute shopping” prices.
“Many people don’t start shopping for food items until the day before Christmas. Right now they are shopping for household items, so we won’t see the crowd until next weekend. But by then the prices may change,” a market vendor who only gave her name as Princess told the Jamaica Observer.
Produce prices tracked by the Jamaica Agricultural Market Information Systems (JAMIS), ranged from $110 to $1,073 per kilogramme for the week ending December 16. The data showed that consumers who picked up fruits and vegetables over the week to December 2 would have paid the same price for most produce for the week ending December 9.
The price of green banana hovered at $110 per kg, one of the lowest priced goods in the market, while produce such as cabbage, callaloo, okra, tomato, sweet pepper (local), cauliflower, pak choi, melon, and papaya remained stable week over week.
Christmas-favoured produce like carrots, broccoli and pineapple have started to trend upwards, according to JAMIS data; however, lettuce, string beans and yellow yam are on the decline.
“Two or three weeks ago we bought lettuce for $800 per pound but we recently purchased it for $400 per pound. Lettuce is really cheap now because it’s in good supply now.
“A few weeks ago, when we had the heavy rains, it affected many farmers and so there was hardly any lettuce in the market. But lettuce is coming back in now, so it is driving down the price,” Coronation Market vendor Richard said.
In assessing some of the factors impacting the price consumers pay for produce, JAMIS Production and Marketing Manager Xavier Charvis told Jamaica Observer that the heavy rains in November did not affect the high-producing parishes. As such, the majority of produce continues to be in strong supply.
“That rain only affected the eastern parishes. There was no significant damage to Clarendon and St Elizabeth, those parishes are the ones that are known for vegetables.
“Farmers in the Clarendon, St Ann and St Catherine beds — Mason River, Bog Hole and Douglas Castle — that a very large production zone for vegetables, especially the leafy vegetables and they didn’t have any significant damage from the rains,” he said.
However, Charvis cautioned consumers that they will see no less than $100 per pound for produce going forward, as input and labour costs are on the rise. Farmers across the island have long complained about the cost of battling pests and diseases, but Charvis says that the cost of labour has also increased over the past two years.
“People are analysing the prices, but they are not taking certain things into consideration. Farmers are spending 200 to 300 per cent more on most inputs and the cost of farm labour has also increased significantly.
“Some parishes are paying labourers between $2,500 to $3,500 per day and this has impacted vegetable prices,” Charvis said.
He added that while Jamaicans are accustomed to seeing between $50 and $80 per pound for vegetables, the new normal is between $120 and $150 per pound.
Farmgate prices per kilogramme posted on JAMIS as at December 16 included:
Lettuce (iceberg) $550
Lettuce (local romaine) $953
Tomato (plummy) $440
Tomato (salad) $770
Sweet pepper (local green) $660
Pineapple (cow boy) $308
Green banana $110