100 jobs by January
BIG BRIDGE, Westmoreland – Approximately 100 residents in Westmoreland are to receive employment at a new canned food processing plant, Negril Pride, which will open its doors in December.
“By January, we should have 100 persons working because that would be the peak season for ackee starting up,” chairman of Meylersfield Multipurpose Cooperative Society Ltd, Courtney Bahadur told the Jamaica Observer.
“Starting out, we realised that this community is a nice little laid-back community and I think that we have a lot of unemployed people. So, it is a way to create employment which will have some economic spin-off for the community,” he explained.
Bahadur, who said residents are aware of plans for the cooperative society to spend “millions of dollars here to develop what was left unused for years”, told Observer West there had been an overwhelming response when job interviews were held recently.
Negril Pride will start off with ackee and callaloo but plans to later expand into canned mango slices, breadfruit, carrot juice and jerk sauce.
The plant is housed on a section of hundreds of acres of land leased from the Sugar Company of Jamaica Holdings (SCJH) Limited. Other sections are used to rear a number of pigs, 500 cows and 300 goats. There are plans to explore canned curry goat and Bahadur said the cooperative will continue to work with the Scientific Research Council (SRC) and the Bureau of Standards Jamaica to make this a reality.
The factory, which is located in Big Bridge District, Little London, was registered as Meylersfield Multipurpose Cooperative Society Ltd in 2012. According to Bahadur, funding challenges caused the delay in start-up. He explained that the project was bankrolled by local investors and they received no help from low-cost government financing institutions despite their best efforts.
However, despite the initial funding challenge, he had high praise for the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) which he said was very responsive.
“The letter was dropped off in the morning and before the end of the day, we got permission to use the [Jamaican] flag on our… Negril Pride label,” stated Bahadur. “You can see that the Government is really trying to move things.”
He is now focused on making a mark in the very competitive food market.
“The quality of the goods will make the difference and there is still a lot of market share out there that we can get,” Bahadur said confidently.
He is also eyeing potential partnerships with established companies, but stressed that any deals made must show a clear benefit for the cooperative. He is also open to collaborations beyond Jamaica’s borders. On Saturday, Cuban Ambassador to Jamaica Fermîn Quiñones toured the facility and a tenacious Bahadur grabbed the opportunity to speak about the possibilities of collaboration.
When contacted, Councillor Ian Myles (Jamaica Labour Party, Little London), in whose division the plant falls, gave the project thumbs up. He is also hoping that there will be no more delays in getting it off the ground.
“Any factory is always welcomed, especially in this day and age when we don’t have enough employment opportunities for all the citizens. With this… creating over 100 jobs is something that I readily await and am in full support of,” stated Myles who is also the deputy mayor of Savanna-la-Mar.