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Ripe banana prices up

Published:Monday | September 8, 2014 | 2:54 PMChristopher Serju
Christopher Serju photo JP Tropical Foods is trying to get out the message about the health benefits of eating ripe bananas.

Four months after it was forced to roll back a 20 per cent hike in the price of its ripe bananas because of a fall-off in sales, JP Tropical Foods is again testing the market by asking customers to pay more for the fruit.

Yesterday, the price moved from $100 for five bananas to $100 for four, or $120 for five, the same margin of increase that took effect on April 22 and which JP rescinded three weeks late, in the wake of strong customer rejection.

This time around, however, Dalton Vernon, who has been a JP vendor for more than three and half years and sells bananas at the intersection of South and Central avenues in Kingston Gardens, central Kingston, is optimistic that consumers will be more accepting.

"We not anticipating any problem because the cost of living going up and people have to understand that we have to go up, too," Vernon told The Gleaner last Wednesday between sales.

Neil Crum Ewing, general manager of JP Tropical's commercial division, had attributed the second-quarter price increase to ongoing spikes in the cost of imported inputs such as fertiliser and chemicals. Now, however, Jeffrey Hall, chief executive of the Jamaica Producers Group, is pointing to the domino effect of the islandwide drought.

Pressure on

"As far as timing is concerned and why the pressure is on us now, part of that is related to the drought, which has resulted in increased costs. We have to increase the level of water required by using electric pumps, which are very expensive to run, and it has led to industrywide challenges and the pressure is on us," he told The Gleaner last Wednesday.

Hall explained further: "In our business, all of the banana decisions are done in consultation with the trade which participated in the retail pricing decision, and so the vendors require an increase to deal with the increased cost of living.

"We also require an increase to deal with the increased input costs arising principally from the exchange-rate movement, depreciating exchange rate. So that's what's happening there."

This time around, also, JP has ramped up its consumer education programme, adding a 'Brain Fuel' and 'Yum Yum Potassi-Yum' tagline to bananas in each bag distributed by vendors, alluding to the fruit's reputation as a very affordable nutritional supplement.