KINGSTON, Jamaica - Pepper production in Jamaica should see an improvement, following the signing of an agreement between farmers and representatives of GraceKennedy Limited at the company’s head offices in downtown Kingston on January 31.
According to the agreement, GraceKennedy will supply the pepper farmer with inputs including seedlings, fertilizer and other chemicals for a one-year period. In return, the farmers will sell their crop to GraceKennedy at a mutually agreed on price. .
Speaking at the signing ceremony, GK Foods CEO Michael Ranglin explained that the initiative was a partnership aimed at stabilising the local supply of pepper.
Ranglin said that the company needed peppers as it was one of the main ingredients used in the production of GraceKennedy’s sauces. However he noted that while the company was an expert at marketing its products, it did not grow peppers.
“When customers in the USA and the UK want Grace products, we can’t tell them we don’t have supplies,” said Ranglin.
“It is very important that we work together to produce a product that is competitively priced,” he added, noting that the price was a determinant of supply and demand.
Agriculture minister Roger Clarke speaking at the signing said that it was necessary for sustained food production locally as Jamaica currently imports US$1 billion in foodstuff annually and “a way must be found to also export food of a similar value”. “Production is what is going to take us out of the predicament that we are in,” said Clarke.
General Manager of Grace Agro Processors Division, Orville Palmer outlined some of the challenges faced in pepper processing. He said that while the pepper mash produced locally is of a very high quality, second only to Peru, the cost of production was the main challenge.
“What we pay locally for the unprocessed pepper is what is being paid for the finished product, that is pepper mash, on the international market,” he said, pointed out that the company will provide training in order to make the local industry internationally competitive.
Participating farmers are from the parishes of St Catherine, St Mary and St Elizabeth and those selected had to meet criteria set by GraceKennedy. These include having at least two years experience in agricultural production. Also farmers must cultivate land which has adequate drainage and not be flood-prone; and have an adequate and reliable supply of irrigation water.