Father extends farming legacy with $5-m Red Stripe/JNSBL loan

Sunday, June 17, 2018

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For 69-year-old Antonio Porter, farming is a legacy, a way of life he inherited from his father, and one that he will be able to pass on to his children, thanks to a new partnership between Red Stripe and Jamaica National Small Business Loan (JNSBL). With the approval of a specialised amount of $5 million, Porter became the first beneficiary of preferential loans made possible under the agreement.

The eldest of eight siblings, Porter was born and raised in the district of Hillside, St Thomas, and realised at an early age that farming was his calling. After completing his education at Morant Bay High School, he pursued specialised training in dairy technology. Paired with his farming passion, Porter used the skills learned to kick-start his own dairy farm, which today covers 40 acres.

He has long-held ambitions to expand his business, which includes another 40-acre diary farm in St Elizabeth, so Porter was excited to learn about the initiative between the beer company and JNSBL, which caters to farmers who cultivate cassava.

Red Stripe uses the starch from cassava as an ingredient in its beer.

Though new to cassava farming, Porter is optimistic the venture will reap success.

“I am very hopeful of the prospects. Cassava is a low maintenance crop in a reliable market, so I am confident business will be great,” he shared.

“Red Stripe has now created a market for cassava and has shown that this type of farming is viable. This partnership marks a great beginning for big things to come,”

As he grooms his son, Oniel Jones, to take over the business, Porter, who has been farming since 1971, spoke about the importance of the loan to his family.

“Red Stripe has provided an avenue for farmers across the island to unearth their skills and create their own stream of income. Through this loan I will be able to preserve my family's legacy and that means a lot to us, as farming is our means of livelihood through which we enjoy financial independence.”

Porter is the first of 13 Red Stripe Project Grow farmers who will access the specialised Climate Smart Loan, which lends up to $5 million with a repayment window of up to 48 months. The interest rate is four per cent. Geared at mitigating the effects of climate change, the loan will allow farmers to equip themselves with irrigation tools and climate-resisting fertiliser which will facilitate the farming of higher-quality cassava plants.

Project Grow has also received funding from the Inter-American Development Bank's Multi-Lateral Investment Fund to strengthen the cassava value chain, primarily by providing technical training and support to Red Stripe-contracted farmers.

Project Grow farmers also have access to the Agriculture Loan Special, which allows them to borrow up to $15 million at a rate of 9.5 per cent with the possibility of up to 80 per cent loan guarantee at a fee of 1-2 per cent, plus GCT, per year for the principal amount outstanding each year.

“The Project Grow initiative is one of our most engaging and fulfilling ventures, providing farmers with a great opportunity to expand their business as well as giving others a chance to harness their skills and earn a living to support their families,” said Red Stripe Managing Director Ricardo Nuncio.

“We are very proud of this and look forward to its contribution to the development of Jamaica's agriculture sector.”

JNSBL General Manager Gillian Hyde added: “By supporting Red Stripe's Project Grow initiative we are able to give farmers the help they need to fuel their agricultural dreams. This also fits squarely with JNSBL's commitment to national development.”

Heir to the family business, 35-year-old Jones shared his gratitude for and excitement at the opportunity to continue his father's legacy.

“This loan is a real blessing to my family and I especially, because my dad has been grooming me to take over the farm. I am very excited for this opportunity and I look forward to the day I can pass along the honour to my children.”

Red Stripe's plan through Project Grow is to replace imported, high-maltose corn syrup in its brewing process with 40 per cent locally sourced cassava starch by 2020. The project launched in 2013.

It has so far supported 92 farmers through the provision of kits containing plant material, irrigation equipment and fertiliser for the first year, and ongoing training to ensure best practice and highest quality.

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