Stacia Williams: Hucksters are the Backbone for Several People
Stacia Williams of Marigot was born into huckstering and has mastered the trade in her over 20 years in the business.
Her mother was plying goods long before Stacia was born and eventually moved to Guadeloupe to continue this endeavour.
"Growing up with my grandparents they would go around buying local produce on the weekends," Williams told The Sun. "They would send things like plantain, dasheen, grapefruit, avocado etc to Guadeloupe."
At that time produce was shipped to the French island from Woodbridge Bay port via a vessel that left on Monday or Sunday.
"It was easier to get local produce because in those days farming was on the rise and there were less hucksters," she said.
Upon completing secondary school, Stacia left for Guadeloupe to further her studies but that was not an easy road.
"While attending college I had the opportunity to see what the real trading looked like and it was completely different than I thought," Williams said.
Stacia would assist her mom during the market hype, which was Tuesday from 12 a.m. to 4 a.m. That was when hucksters would sell off the bulk of their goods to supermarkets and other buyers. She then had to rush home and get ready to catch the school bus at 6:15 am and that she did for over three years.
Williams eventually returned to Dominica to look after her grandparents and after they passed away she was the only left huckstering which was a tough road but she learned to handle it.
"I had to be very disciplined. My mom would send the money down on the cargo boat. At that time, they were using Francs. I would change the money at the bank on a Friday and call the different farmers to make my order for pick up on Saturday," she said.
This work is not for the faint of heart. After collecting the produce, Stacia would stay up late, sometimes until 3 a.m, to wash oranges, tania, yams, etc. The following day, Sunday, she would attend church and returning home went back to work.
"Occasionally I would have two workers - depending on the amount of work - sometimes more," she said.
The boxed commodities were then brought to Woodbridge Bay Port where Stacia did her shipping documents by the agent and that would be it until Friday.
This veteran huckster has seen significant changes in the trade over the years.
"Some produce is more difficult to source, like citrus, nutmeg, dry coconut etc. Prices have increased which makes it difficult for us to compete on the Guadeloupe market," she lamented, "because they import from countries where there is a high supply and cheaper price. The only thing that makes our produce stand out is the quality in terms of taste."
Stacia cites poor access roads and the passing away of elderly farmers as other challenges. She fondly remembers constructive, advice-filled conversations with senior farmers like Mr. Louis from Coulibistrie and Mr. Farmer from Riviere Cyrique, both of whom are still alive.
She says, however, things are worse now with the COVID-19 pandemic than compared to Hurricane Maria.
"After Maria, I wasn't able to get much produce but whatever I got would sell. With COVID-19 you can get produce but so many restrictions that it makes it difficult to sell."
Williams revealed the decreased value of the Euro and lack of incentives make things tough for hucksters. She is disappointed that meetings with the Ministry of Trade promising help, yield nothing. Added to that is the increased cost of boxes and shipping.
Stacia describes hucksters as the backbone of several people in Dominica, "since we started this business we pay the farmers immediately. Covid 19 has since taken over and the market is more difficult."
Her words of wisdom for those looking to enter the business: "hucksters are not recognized. The trade isn't an easy road but if you are determined you can make it."
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