Shavuot International’s expansion creates economic opportunities in St Mary
Jamaican agribusiness company Shavuot International (Shavuot) is expanding its agroprocessing operations from its factory in McKessey Lane, Spanish Town, St Catherine, to the All Island Banana Growers’ Association (AIBGA) factory in Trinity, St Mary. The move is being driven by the need for additional processing space, the accommodation of new production opportunities, and to specialise each factory in producing products best suited for its location.
“The main products at our first factory are mostly teas and spices,” explained Marketing Director Joel Harris. “The second factory focuses on gluten-free flour.”
According to Harris, gluten-free flour was already being produced at the St Catherine location but increased demand prompted the shift to Trinity, allowing the first factory to concentrate more on teas and spices.
The new factory is more automated and employs a staff of six people, with the capacity to expand the number of employees due to its larger size.
With the gluten-free flour from the factory being made from local green bananas as well as other gluten-free flour from breadfruits, sweet potatoes, and sweet cassavas, the operation is expected to provide a number of benefits to Trinity and nearby communities, including employment opportunities, economic growth, and support for farmers as the factory expands.
“We are employing from the area, even as far as the Portland side as well,” Harris said. “As the team grows, as production grows, as more products evolve from that factory, we are then able to employ more people from that region and also bring more life to the area by buying raw material from farmers.”
Harris believes that as the factory diversifies its products it will not just be an outlet for farmers looking to sell bananas and other products but also for the sale of local spices, fruits, herbs, and more. This diversified market will allow farmers to move away from sole reliance on declining banana prices and explore other crops, creating a sustainable market for their products.
Harris revealed that Shavuot is already partnering with the AIBGA, enabling them to source raw materials from AIBGA farmers.
The expanded operations come at a time when the company is experiencing significant sales growth over the past few years, with more than a two-fold increase in sales compared to previous figures. This growth has been driven by increased demand from both local and overseas markets, particularly in the United States.
“I have seen at least a 20 per cent to 30 per cent increase over the past few years, or more, in our presence in the local market,” Harris disclosed.
Shavuot exports its products to several countries, including the USA, Canada, across the Caribbean region, and the UK.
Initially, a significant portion of their buyers were from the diaspora, but over time, they have seen a growing number of mainstream customers. In some cases, these non-diaspora customers have become some of their largest buyers for certain products.
Shavuot’s gluten-free flour primarily targets mainstream markets, with a focus on mainstream Americans. This customer base includes both individual consumers and commercial users of gluten-free flour, a market that he expects to grow in the near future.
“We cannot solve the banana industry’s problems,” Harris said. “However, by formulating the green banana gluten-free flour in larger capacities when we are able to have the demand for it, we will be able to take some of the excess that the banana farmers have and turn it into flour for sale.”
Shavuot International is the recipient of the Most Outstanding Company award from the Export Max III programme in which it was a participant as part of the 2019-2023 cohort. Export Max III is a Jamaican export development initiative managed by the Jamaica Promotions Corporation (Jampro).