Scam, kidnap by South African police

Scam, kidnap by South African police

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Scam, kidnap by South African police

Scam, kidnap by South African police

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Lin-Jay Harry-Voglezon Commentary

Plantain chips, financial independence and a Caribbean airline. Lin-Jay Harry-Voglezon. MJoTA 2013 v7n2 p1106

Outstanding Caribbean thinkers and writers like the late CLR James and Walter Rodney argued that a critical element of Caribbean underdevelopment and dependency is that it produces what it does not consume, and consumes what it does not produce. The effect is that the Anglophone Caribbean has an annual import food bill approximating US$2 billion, partly in support of its tourist industry and partly a consequence of historical conditioning to believe that “foreign is better.”

In Guyana during the 1970s and early 1980s, the Burnham administrations were leading proponents of buy and grow local policies in the Caribbean, partly as a necessity to reduce balance of trade deficits, and partly as a measure to utilize indigenous resources to create employment. As the economy regressed and became unable to discharge its balance of payments and trade deficits, the policies became increasingly draconian. Not only were apples, grapes, raisins, sardine, corn beef, imported salt beef, salt fish, split peas, onions, evaporated milk, etc. banned, but people were persecuted and prosecuted for possessing wheaten flour and bread. Bread snatching took place. The security forces confiscated such goods and or prosecuted the custodians.

These import substitution policies were not only resented and resisted in some quarters, but became the foundation of endemic corruption in the country. At the same time however, the domestic salt fish industry took off, as would experiments with local fruits and vegetables, vegetable oils, rice, cassava, yam, plantain and eddo flour etc. A range of agricultural diversification was also pursued. Then came the IMF in the second half of the 1980s and the implementation of liberal economic policies and free trade. The emerging cottage industries became displaced as would restoration of historical consumption tastes, habits and preferences.

But now on the Guyana-Jamaica leg of my return trip to New York on Monday, October 14 via Fly Jamaica, I was most surprised at being served an impressively designed green, white and yellow packet of green plantain chips, packaged in Columbia for the Jamaican based Grace Kennedy Limited. This is plantain chips having a refined presence. One may know of the days in Guyana when the late Edward Rabbi Washington and his House of Israel started plantain chips as a business with basic manual technology. But it never evolved beyond the members walking around with baskets of chips seeking customers.

The plastic bags were either tied or sealed with the heat of matches or candles. While good sales were apparently made, the business never attracted prestige and was despised in many quarters. To date, except for a few individual vendors in the Berbice area, the plantain chip cottage industry is virtually over and plantain may now be called ‘Dr. /Professor Plantain’.

Unlike the ‘70s in Guyana when plantain was obtained at around 7cents per lb. and trucks of it, like other fruits and vegetables, were dumped or left on wharves to rot, owing to inadequate demand and or transportation, the price to date is over G$200 or US$1 per lb. Equally significant, is that on the Jamaica-New York leg of the trip, the Jamaican national dish of ackee and salt fish was served. That, in addition to the plantain chips, suggests that Fly Jamaica is branding itself with a Caribbean identity, helping to dismantle the Caribbean perspectives of inferiority and advancing the process of forward, backward and horizontal linkages of Caribbean industries. In promoting Caribbean foods, Fly Jamaica is expanding space for increased indigenous productions, profits and employment. Maybe one day there will be miniature flavoured cassava bread. Perhaps bake and salt fish too.

This was first published by Kaietur News on Oct 28, 2013