WITH challenging times ahead, the Jamaica Observer kicked off a series of mixers, which will feature stalwarts in the business community speaking on business strategies for survival.
The Observer Managing Director's Mixer will likely have in attendance persons who have experienced tough times before and who will share how they got through those times, said Danville Walker, Observer's managing director.
Chairman of the Jamaica Producers (JP) Group Charles Johnston told the Business Observer of the paths he took which have helped to make Jamaica Producers what it is today.
The company is accustomed to hard times and has had to re-invent itself to stay afloat.
"We have had five hurricanes in the last decade, so much so that we have repositioned ourselves and came out of the business of exporting banana," Johnston said.
JP is now growing pineapples, which the chairman said isn't adversely affected by hurricanes.
Johnston told the Business Observer that there is already some 25 acres of pineapple, and once it reaches 50 acres it will be sold to the local market.
He acknowledged that the fruit can have some challenges, if it isn't grown in the right conditions. JP selected a sweeter variety of pineapple.
"Right now, none of you can get bananas, it shows what is happening," the chairman, said. "We have basically changed our way of doing business, new crops, new products."
The company announced that it completed the resuscitation of 420 acres of its 550-acre St Mary banana farm, with plans to return the farms to full production over two years.
Replanting of the remaining acreage of its banana farm would not begin until after the 2013 hurricane season.
The company is also looking at areas in the western part of the island that doesn't get much damage to satisfy the longer-term growth market demand.
Banana business is good business, he told the guests. "But we know we can't keep planting them in the east where they are prone to destruction by hurricanes."
Most recently, JP partnered with Red Stripe to look at using cassava, which JP plants to brew the drink.
"Finding new areas is what you must do in hard times, you can do the same things and drop in the same pothole, which will damage your business," Johnston said.
JP is the producer of St Mary's banana chips.
It now boasts nearly two dozen subsidiaries and joint venture operations across three broad industries - from agro processing, to shipping services and mining. The firms operate within jurisdictions as far flung as Holland, Costa Rica, and Britain, as well as The Cayman Islands and Jamaica.