Saturday, January 20, 2018

Expect slip in banana bill

Shipment to end shortage


pricey produce: Jason Alexander, left, buys bananas from a vendor on Charlotte Street, Port of Spain, yesterday. The bananas were being sold at $8 per pound. —Photo: AYANNA KINSALE

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Banana prices should be slipping soon.

Owner Ashram Dowlath of Trinidad and Tobago's largest banana importer, Agni's Enterprise, told the Express yesterday in a telephone interview he was expecting a shipment of the fruit next week to alleviate the country's short supply.

For the last two months, bananas have been scarce, and a worldwide shortage meant increased prices and delayed shipments.

As an added blow, the Windward Islands—in particular, St Lucia—from where T&T imports most of its supply, have been ravaged by the black sigatoka disease (a fungal infection that causes leaf spots and lower yields), as well as the impact of several major hurricanes. Dowlath said it was cheaper to import from up the islands, but they have no supply for export.

The average price of bananas was $4 to $5 per pound, but that has since skyrocketed almost 100 per cent. In Port of Spain, the average price is now $7 per pound; in Chaguanas, it is as much as $10 per pound.

Vendors say they have to pay $250 to $280 per 22 pound crate: that's almost $12 per pound, so they are actually selling the popular fruit at a loss although they remain in high demand.

Dowlath's bananas come from Suriname (70 per cent) and the Dominican Republic (30 per cent). He is the sole importer from Suriname and supplies several major supermarkets and wholesalers who, in turn, supply smaller vendors.

"Because of scarcity, some sellers raised their prices, but when my shipment comes in to supply the market, prices should be coming back down," he said.