Boom and a pack of Shirley

I was having a tough time coming up with a topic today. I had wondered about the crazy stunt by an artiste named Ikon of an attempted suicide by climbing a radio antenna and threatening to jump unless his song was played on air. This could have been in bad taste, given the actual suicide of one of the greatest comedians the day before. But, I suspect Ikon was only thinking about how iconic he could be. Selfish. Whoever hadn’t heard of him before at least knew his name. The song? Can’t say that I’m bothered to look for it.

That’s the sort of half-baked attempt attention-grabbing that often goes on, though usually without putting a lot of innocent people under stress or wondering if they would have someone’s fate in their hands.

Most people try to just get on with life and make the best of bad situations.

I then went to the supermarket. I love to watch people. It was early afternoon and a few people were grabbing what looked like afternoon snacks. In Jamaica, that’s often a soda and some chips (banana or plantain). I then say a man with a bottle of ‘Boom’ energy drink and a pack of ‘Shirley’ sweet biscuits.

Boom energy drink: product of Jamaica
Shirley biscuits: product of Jamaica

Both are local products. As were the other item I’d noted being bought.

I asked him if that was his lunch. He explained that it was to get him through the afternoon, including when he got home to watch CNN News. I wondered if the depressing content of CNN broadcasts needed offsetting with the sugar boost. He didn’t seem offended by my curiosity, which is good.

At the back of my mind were two things. First, how we get by out of home when we need nutrition. I’d read an article last night about good things to eat to get through a round of golf–usually, about four hours, and often in full heat. Boiled eggs, peanut butter and jelly, fruit, were all high on the list. I’d had a bus bans, plus eggs with toast at about 6am, before heading out to play. It seemed to hold me well. I had to hit a peanut butter and banana sandwich, then some pasta later, once I’d gotten home again and the energy drain was kicking in. Chips and soda were far from my mind.

Second, was the bubbling debate about the ‘buy Jamaica, build Jamaica‘ campaign, run by the Jamaica Manufacturers Association JMA).

This campaign has good intentions and can draw energy from the fact that Jamaicans are good patriots, even though they love to flaunt things bought abroad. Nevertheless, many Jamaicans see foreign goods as also more expensive, and not necessarily to their tastes. Look at tinned processed cheese, which would bomb almost anywhere else.

But, are we really being targeted as consumers? People may just respond to price, and Jamaican is likely to be cheaper. They may also just be responding to need and familiarity. Our packaging often comes in for much criticism, and the look of things affects many people’s choices. So, we ought to see a push to let people know that the contents are the best or near the best.

I steer away from imports, simply because I see few things that I MUST have that are not local. I don’t have a choice with certain things, such as gasoline or cars. But, I do with a lot of foods. It’s my contribution to reducing our food import bill and also pressure on the exchange rate.

But, others are not discerning or just don’t care, or just don’t trust Jamaican goods, etc. Foreign,even from developed countries, is no guarantee of anything positive, as China has found with scares over imported milk products from New Zealand.

So, the JMA could do a lot more convincing and so could our consumer advocates, who could help us understand what the market is made up of and what represents value for money, local or imported.

Author: Dennis G Jones (aka 'The Grasshopper')

Retired International Monetary Fund economist. My blog is for organizing my ideas and thoughts about a range of topics. I was born in Jamaica, but spent 30 years being educated, living, and working in the UK. I lived in the USA for two decades, and worked and travelled abroad, extensively, throughout my careers and for pleasure. My views have a wide international perspective. Father of 3 girls. Also, married to an economist. :)

One thought on “Boom and a pack of Shirley”

  1. I couldn’t handle four hours in full heat! Thing is, a bottle of Boom and a pack of Shirley biscuits has virtually no nutritional value does it? But the main thing is it’s cheap and can “hold” you for a little while… “Buy Jamaican” campaigns (and there have been so many in the past!) are always controversial but I agree with you. It all comes down to price…


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