The paper looks t the supply chain of the papaya on multiple levels, from a farm in Jamaica to UK supermarkets, as well as a wide breadth of issues present within the current globalizes market that affects most products on said market. From the dangers of the papaya farm, to the complexity of setting a price for a British supermarket and how to market a new exotic fruit to the masses, Ian Cook (2004) brings up many important points about the current global system. One of the very interesting issues brought up was the many, many factors behind high food costs; specifically the needlessly high food standards set by supermarkets and consumers.
One of the ways Follow the thing: Papaya (Cook, 2004) looks at the supply chain is from the perspective of Mina, a specialist fruit and Vega buyer. She speaks about how she does not think she would ever buy papaya from one of the supermarkets she buys for because she can get a better deal from an Ethnic shop. Part of the reason for the supermarkets’ high prices is because “Everything got to look perfect” (Cook, 2004); fruit and Vega in non-standard shapes and with blemishes are not sold in big chain shops.
This idea is supported by previous data, showing a real problem with how fresh produce is managed. All fruit and vegetables, not just papaya, have to meet high cosmetic appearance standards set by supermarkets, not the government. These ugly fruit do not dither in nutritional quality but “Knobble carrots, wonky spuds, bent corrugates and disclosure cauliflowers” (Vidal, 201 2) are normally rejected leading to vast amount of produce left to rot. These too high standards leave good food going to waste, driving up food prices in a time where many go hungry.
For example, in Global food losses and food waste (Gustafson, et al. , 201 1) the snapshot case: appearance quality standards (page 10) talks about how on a British farm, M. H. Posit Carrots in Yorkshire, large quantities of out-graded carrots were sent off as animal. The reasons for being out-graded included “having a slight bend”, not being “orange” enough, having blemishes or being broken (Gustafson, et al. , 2011). Sad’s quality standards require that all carrots should be straight, without clefts or odd bumps, “so customers can peel the full length in one easy strop’.
This means, Of the 25-30% Of their produce out-graded half was because of “rejected due to physical or aesthetic defects, such as being the wrong shape or size; being broken or having a cleft or a blemish” (Gustafson, et al. 2011). Consumer surveys say that the general public are willing to buy fresh produce that are non-standard in appearance, for example “the ‘wrong’ weight, size” (Gustafson, et al. , 2011), as long as it does not affect taste.
This may be getting through to supermarkets as several supermarkets have shown they are willing to relax the rules on the cosmetic appearance of fresh produce on years with poor crop yields like in 2012. March 2012 was “an exceptionally mild month and the driest for the UK since 1953” (Natural Environment Research Council (NEAR), 2012), which combined with an unseasonably wet June, autumn tortes and flooding dropped British fresh produce by “25%” (Vidal, 2012). That year Ginsburg supermarket chain “relaxed its rules on the cosmetic appearance of fresh produce”.
This allowed fresh produce “that would normally be ploughed back into fields, to be sold in its 1,01 2 stores” (Vidal, 2012). On the other hand, much of the Papaya rejection happens at the specialist pre-packers. At these packing centers the fruit is checked against the final destinations personal regulations and carefully packed. Follow the thing: Papaya (Cook, 2004) looks at papaya farming from Jims perspective. He speaks of how much effort he has to put into keeping his workers motivated. He also speaks about how he could lose payment for a shipment of fruit if, at the pre-packers in the ELK, it failed to measure up to specifications.
The fruit might have been “cooked as the flight was delayed in Montage Bay” or “been bruised when an airfreight container fell off its trailer at Gastric” (Cook, 2004). Imported fresh produce transportation can lead to many of the fruit and Vega failing to meet the high standards set by supermarkets. This can be caused by “poor storage facilities”; for example, a lack of proper “cooling” (Gustafson, et al. 2011) for fresh produce can cause the fruit to ripen and go off earlier or improper packing allows for fruit to be bruised and damaged if the container is dropped or handled improperly.
The “high ‘appearance quality standards’ from supermarkets for fresh products lead to food waste” (Gustafson, et al. , 2011 higher food prices and lower profits for both the supermarkets and the farmers. It also has the follow-on effect of lower wages and poorer working conditions for workers. The problems common with the transportation of fresh produce goods across large distances through both boat and air methods can add to these robbers, as well as affecting when products much be harvested and what conditions they ideally need to be transported under.
A large part of Follow the thing: Papaya (Cook, 2004) is using vignettes to give a strong impression of each link in the papaya’s journey from farm to the consumer’s home. This approach allows for each person and culture, with their customs, habits, and mutual differences, to be incorporated into the paper. This gives it a strong social aspect with a number Of advantages as well as a range Of disadvantages. Follow the thing: Papaya has a very personal touch, showing he people involved in the modern food chain and how each link to each other.
It is an important look at how the consumer affects the global market, that from London they can shape the lives of workers in Jamaica. The personal touch developed through contact with each person with in Follow the thing: Papaya, yields rich data, details and new insights (Minter, 2003). Each insight gained through experience, for example on a farm and as a specialist, offers a valuable insight to how they live and how they affect each other. The sheer flexibility of this method allows for a gathering more in- PPTP information and allows for spontaneous lines of questioning based on information given.
This makes every interview a tailored one and is far more personalized then a set questionnaire; with the ability to instantly follow up on open-ended answers and to react to non-verbal cues. The amount of flexibility can also be a large disadvantage; it can lead to inconsistencies across interviews. The major disadvantage to this approach is the non- quantifiable nature of the information gained. The data gained can be hard to support from other sources and the accuracy can be “limited and difficult to pacify/’ (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMARA), NINA).
Other potential problems with this data gathering method is the influence the interviewer can have upon the responses from people interviewed. Factors including ‘tone of voice, the way a question may be rephrased, voicing an opinion, inadequate note taking even the gender and appearance of the interviewer may lead to errors and bias” (Minter, 2003). The information gained is also subjective and can be hard to analyses due to the flexibility and range of data that can be produced. The amount of information given can also make the analysis difficult.
All of the information gained needs to be considered with the potential of human error kept in mind at all times. The nature of note taking, human interaction and the subjective qualities of multi-local ethnographic research leaves a lot of room for misinterpretation and personal bias from everyone involved. Overall Follow the thing: Papaya (Cook, 2004) provides information in a thought provoking manner that is widely accessible through the way it is presented and the many vignettes used. It gives a coherent tale of the papaya fruit from the Jamaican farm to the consumers home in London.