There used to be a time not so many years ago when much of what was consumed at Christmas was imported into the country from overseas. Local taste for these imported goodies – ice apples and grapes ranked high on the list – was so great that considerations of cost associated with these imports simply never arose for many years, until, of course, foreign exchange with which to make these purchases became an issue and importation was simply banned.
Not that the taste for imported Christmas-time foods has disappeared altogether but there have been other occurrences that have made them less seasonally attractive. The first of course is the fact that import restrictions are now a thing of the past and as far as the availability of imported foods traditionally associated with Christmas is concerned, every day is Christmas – so to speak – since those foods are being imported all year round, though prices render them inaccessible to poor people. The other reason has to do with changing tastes. The practice of consuming grapes or apples, for example, during the Christmas period had little to do with taste, when compared for example with a locally-grown mango or orange. The truth is that it simply never occurred to most consumers to make taste comparisons. Apples and grapes were consumed at Christmas as a matter of custom.
Successive governments in Guyana would probably argue that change in tastes has been the result of repeated official urging that we eat local foods and seek to build our seasonal eating habits around what we produce. On the other hand it may well be that local consumers are discovering, after all, that in terms of taste, a mango can more than hold its own when compared with an imported apple and that tangerines are really no less tasty than grapes. Of course, the fact that locally grown fruit is cheaper and that some varieties can even be processed to replace imported cake mix are also considerations that influence purchasing habits.
Over the past few weeks there has been a significant increase in the volume of locally grown fruit – particularly citrus and mangoes on the local market. Earlier this week vendors were offering as many as a dozen tangerines for one hundred dollars and it felt good to watch local consumers carting off bags of tangerines and oranges while ignoring the grapes and apples that were being sold cheek by jowl with local fruit. And even if it might be argued that price was a key consideration in the consumers’ choices, it will be recalled that there used to be a time, not so many years ago, when consumers made the financial sacrifice to indulge themselves. That appears to have changed substantially and whatever the reason it reflects a huge shift in a long-held belief that foreign is better and that is a huge victory for local farmers and agro producers whose efforts may at last be beginning to find genuine appreciation among local consumers.