Amid calls for companies to increase sales beyond local borders, commercial banana grower JP Farms is reporting a significant increase in its fruit export volumes since the start of this year.
The entity, which is a subsidiary of the Jamaica Producers Group (JP), has indicated that its export levels are now trending some 40 per cent above that of the same period last year. The over 500-acre farm in St Mary on which other crops such as coconut, plantains and pineapples are cultivated, currently export to a number of overseas territories including the United States, Canada, Cayman Islands and the United Kingdom.
Despite the continued effects of the novel coronavirus pandemic including worsened logistic and supply chain challenges, sales manager for JP Farms Neleta White said exports remain at improved volumes when compared to last year, which she believes has also led to an overall growth across its operation.
"Our increase in export sales have been largely demand-led. We are working closely with our current export customers to support their sell-out rates as well as seeking additional customers in new and existing territories to continue expanding our footprint," she said, noting that the growth of the company's export portfolio has also spurred efforts to seek out and cultivate overseas markets for plantains in addition to its traditional banana crop.
She said that several export customers have already indicated an interest in Jamaican-grown plantains once supply comes on stream for the Diaspora market. The push to enter the plantain market began last year when the farm operation pumped approximately $100 million into a production of the crop locally. The projections are for yields to boom during the fourth quarter of this year. Additionally, over 50 acres of land were cleared and planted since the start of this year in preparation for the 2023 yield.
The JP Group, which is already in the market with plantain chips that are manufactured in the Dominican Republic under its St Mary's brand, is seeking to not only secure markets for fresh plantains, but to later expand into the production of value-added products. The large conglomerate which runs a diverse multi-national business is primarily invested in food and logistics.
General manager at JP Farms Mario Figueroa said that as the company takes steps to expand on its recent export successes, it will continue to innovate while reducing costs where possible. This, as it also increases acreage on its banana, pineapple and plantain farms.
"We still believe in local agriculture, local production and investing in Jamaican farming," he stated.
Figueroa said that despite some challenges led by a 50 per cent price increase in farm inputs along with the continued disruptions, the company is determined to 'Build Back Stronger Through Exports' as it play a part in revitalising the post-pandemic economy through agriculture.