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Shopping at the Jamaican Market | Must Have Items

by Sheree-Anita Shearer | Associate Writer



Falmouth Fruit Stand
Photo: Fruit Stand in Falmouth, Jamaica


In a recent conversation with Maura on Living in Jamaica for Six Months, she suggested that long haul vacationers could shop at local markets to get affordable food for the duration of their stay. So, that got me thinking, would you know what to get at the market? What are the costs for the items you may need?

The prices depend on the demand for and the supply of the goods. The prices also vary depending on the availability of the items in the area you are in. The location of the market is also a factor as markets in the town areas tend to be more expensive simply because they are farther away from the farmers in the countryside. They price their goods intending to recover transportation costs, market fees etc.

The price for each item fluctuates quite often (weekly in most cases). However, The Ministry of Agriculture & Fisheries, Agricultural Market Information Division and the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA) have created the Jamaica Agricultural Market Information System(JAMIS). On this site, you can find the prices for products under five categories: Fruits, Vegetables, Legumes, Herbs and Spices and Root Crops (Ground Provisions).

Here are some prices and tips to help you navigate the market like a Jamaican.
The prices are listed in pounds where applicable.

Fruits


You can start your market trip off right with a visit to a fruit vendor. Most fruits are seasonal in Jamaica and you can only enjoy them during their season. However, there are a few that are available almost right throughout the year.

  1. Coconut $150 - $300
  2. Oranges $500-$800
  3. Plantains:
    • (Ripe) - $50 - $250
    • (Green)- $50 - $150

  4. Bananas:
    • Green $30 - $150
    • Ripe $150 - $200

  5. Watermelons $80 - $200
  6. Grapes $800 - $100
  7. Pineapples $100 - $250

You can always find a combination of these foods being sold in the mornings as well as in the lunch kits of students and adults alike. They are a major part of the Jamaican diet. Be sure to put your fruits in a separate bag so they don’t get bruised!

Vegetables


The next, stop is the Vegetable stall. Here you’ll see the colourful array of vegetables to choose from. Top Vegetables in the markets are:

  1. Carrots $150 - $300
  2. Tomatoes $150-$400
  3. Cabbage $150 - $300
  4. Callaloo:
    • Shredded - $140 - $300
    • Whole - $50 - $200

  5. Cucumbers $70 - $200
  6. Pumpkin $150 - $200
  7. String Beans $200 - $400
  8. Sweet Peppers:
    • (Green)$400 - $450
    • (Red) $450-$800

  9. Lettuce:
    • Iceberg - $250 - $600
    • Romaine - $500 - $600

  10. Broccoli $250 - $600
  11. Bok Choy/Pak Choi $70 - $180

Don’t ask for Pak Choi or Bok Choy, in Jamaica, it’s called “Pop chow”.

Seasonings and Spices


You cannot cook for a Jamaican without seasonings and spices and no trip to the market is complete until you have them. Here are the must have spices and seasonings.

  1. Onions $200 - $300
  2. Escallion and Thyme $120 - $400
  3. Ginger $250 - $600
  4. Scotch Bonnet Pepper $180 - $500
  5. Nutmeg $120 per half dozen
  6. Rosemary $120 per bundle
  7. Garlic $150

Ground Provisions


  1. Irish Potato $250 - $400
  2. Sweet Potato $50 - $200
  3. Yams:
    • (Negro) - $150 - $300
    • (Sweet) - $250 - $350
    • (White) - $120 - $300
    • (Yellow) - $100 - $300

  4. Dasheen $100 - $250
  5. Coco $90 - $200
  6. Red Peas $200
  7. Breadfruit:
    • (Green) $150 - $250
    • (Roasted) $300-$450

Fish, Meat and Poultry


Most markets have a butcher stall or shop directly in the market or close by. What’s available is an entirely different story. In most cases you’ll get what you need. However, it still depends on your location. Fish might be easier to get at coastline markets; it will be cheaper there as well.

  1. Fish $350 - $800
  2. Chicken $250 - $300
  3. Pork $350 - $400
  4. Beef $400 - $500
  5. Goat (Ask for this as mutton) - $900 - $100
  6. Oxtail $1300 - $1500

Take a separate bag for these items and buy them last. They are quite heavy and are most times kept in a freezer.

Remedies


You must stock up on your home remedies for the week. Herbs for teas are important.

  1. Mint $150
  2. Cinnamon leaves $150
  3. Soursop leaves $150

Household Items


Lastly, your trip to the market is not complete until you get one or two random family items.
Market-goers can look forward to purchasing household items. Every household must have a grate, strainer, mop, straw broom, pots and pans, tubs (for washing and bathing), household cleaners and even clothes! Household cleaners can be bought in bulk for cheaper prices than that of the supermarket.

Market Tips



  1. Bring separate bags for your fruits and meats. Fruits (and some vegetables) bruise easily.

  2. Buy your ground provisions closer to the end of your trip! Especially if you will be walking for a while. These things can be quite heavy

  3. Stick to local produce, they are cheaper, the prices listed above are all for local produce. There are imported types available for some of these crops however, they tend to cost at least $100 more.

  4. Beautiful and blemish free does not always mean good quality, "healthy crops”. Most farmers try to get their produce free of imperfections. But, I personally think 1 or two blemishes are ok. A lot of chemicals are sometimes used to keep little insects from biting them. But those chemicals might be just as harmful to you as they are to insects.

  5. Shop around for the best prices. As you can see the disparities between the maximum and minimum price for each crop can be quite large. Sometimes if you go to a few vendors you might just get it cheaper.

  6. Going to the market is a two-person operation. There will be two sets of eyes and hands. The company will not be bad either. If you’re alone though, don’t worry it can be just as fun.

  7. Dress comfortably and pay special attention to your footwear. Wear your most comfortable outfit and account for the weather. Bring an umbrella for shade (or for the rain).

  8. Develop a relationship with the vendors. If they come to know you and you are a regular customer, vendors will do all they can to ensure you get something you like even if it is scarce – for the right price of course!

  9. Take note of the market days in your area. The items will be cheaper as more vendors will be there to choose from.

  10. Buy things that are in season; the harder the item is to source the more expensive it will be.

So, there you have it! Happy Shopping!

I also recommend you read 10 Most Loved Fruits In Jamaica

Regards,
SS

References:

  • Jamaica Agriculture Market Information System, http://www.ja-mis.com/companionsite/home.aspx

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