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91 Entrepreneurs From Jamaica Upskilled Under FAO Project

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Photo: Dave Reid

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) Representative for Jamaica, The Bahamas, and Belize, Dr Crispim Moreira (second left), makes a point during a conversation with (from left) International consultant with the FAO, Dr Inessa Salomao; Junior Achievement Jamaica’s Callia Smith-Harriott; and the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Mining’s St. Sanya Morrison. The occasion was a validation seminar for the ‘Inclusive and Resilient Agri-Food Systems in Rural and Peri-Urban Territories of Kingston’ project on Friday (October 6) at the Altamont Court Hotel in Kingston.

A total of 91 small and micro entrepreneurs have been upskilled under the ‘Inclusive and Resilient Agri-Food Systems in Rural and Peri-Urban Territories of Kingston’ project, which was led by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

The project mainly assisted young female business owners to implement agri-food businesses with a sustainable, inclusive, and resilient approach to improving incomes and protecting livelihoods.

A validation seminar was held on Friday (October 6) at the Altamont Court Hotel in Kingston where the project was assessed.

The initiative, which started in 2021, covered 23 different locations in Kingston and St Andrew.

Sixty entrepreneurs were trained in business development in Kingston while 31 were trained in business development and agricultural best practices through two eco villages.

FAO representative for Jamaica, The Bahamas, and Belize, Dr Crispim Moreira, said the results of the collective efforts of the FAO and its project partners, Junior Achievement Jamaica and the Maia Foundation, are “impressive”.

“This project represents a significant milestone in our ongoing efforts to promote sustainable agriculture and food systems in Jamaica and is aligned with the Hand in Hand Initiative, a flagship programme of FAO,” Dr. Moreira said.

“These entrepreneurs are now leading the charge towards a more sustainable, inclusive, and resilient agri-food system that not only improves income but also safeguards livelihoods,” he added.

Dr. Moreira said one of the most significant outcomes of the project has been the strengthening of Government entities’ technical capacity to establish business incubators.

For her part, international consultant with the FAO, Dr Inessa Salomao, said with the project having started during the COVID-19 pandemic, its execution was “very challenging”.

“We had issues like increased poverty, and a lot of questions were evolving in the production sector. So when we started, we were challenged to make something different and new to benefit Jamaicans,” she said.

Five entrepreneurs benefited from some US$6,500 in seed funding to implement the business plans conceptualised during the project.

Commercial market linkages were also established with businesses in the Corporate Area and business registration was facilitated through partnerships.

Sixty-six Government of Jamaica personnel were trained to provide business incubator services; 20 persons from the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Mining were trained to use and update a multidimensional geographic information data platform that visualises and overlays economic, statistical, and geospatial analyses to identify and validate business opportunities.

Project testimonials include that of Bull Bay Beekeeper and owner of G&G’s Vineyards, Alvia Green.

“I am different now because when I used to sell my honey, I would just put down the money. Now I am transformed. I have started to document sales. The best part of this experience was teaching us how to budget. I didn’t have any experience about balance sheets and assets,” the entrepreneur said.

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Agriculture

Jamaica Business Development Corporation (JBDC) Opens Renovated Agro-Processing Incubator

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The Jamaica Business Development Corporation (JBDC) has opened a renovated agro-processing incubator as it looks to boost production and export among micro and small agro-processors.

The project was funded by the European Union (EU), managed by the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) and implemented by the JBDC.

Speaking during Monday’s (November 13) grand opening at the JBDC’s Incubator Resource Centre in Kingston, Minister of Industry, Investment and Commerce, Senator the Hon. Aubyn Hill, said it is a significant milestone in Jamaica’s path towards entrepreneurial excellence.

“The initiative is a vital step in our journey at the Ministry of Industry, Investment and Commerce, aligning perfectly with our strategic goal to develop and strengthen industry value chains for export,” he said.

The Minister shared that micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) contribute significantly to Jamaica’s gross domestic product, approximately 44 per cent, noting that integrating them into a robust export value chain is crucial to boosting their growth potential and enhancing the country’s economic prosperity and global market presence.

JBDC Incubator and Resource Centre Manager for Technical Services, Colin Porter, detailed that six critical pieces of equipment were acquired for filling, packaging and production of a variety of products, including beverages, sauces, condiments, dry mixes, purées and pastries.

“We moved from approximately 600 sq. ft. to a total of 1,000 sq. ft. because we were constrained just by the physical limitations of the space itself. However, this expansion will now allow us to more efficiently allow our clients to carry out product development activities as well as production activities,” he said.

Mr. Porter shared that the incubator is staffed with an agro-industry process supervisor, food technologist, food development specialist and incubator assistant, who work with clients to transform their ideas or samples into world-class products.

He said the JBDC is working towards achieving Food Safety System Certification (FSSC) 22000 for the incubator, “which will mean that we will be truly ready to export throughout the world””.

Meanwhile, Advisor to the CDB Vice-President of Operations, Dr. Darran Newman, pointed out that agriculture plays a critical role in the fabric of Caribbean societies.

“It serves, not only as a source of sustenance but also a cornerstone of our economy, providing income for millions. This agro-processing incubator is definitely a symbol of our commitment to nurturing and cultivating a culture of entrepreneurship and excellence within this agro-processing domain,” Dr. Newman said.

She further noted that through collaboration, mentorship and access to state-of-the-art facilities, Jamaica’s pool of agricultural entrepreneurs is poised to grow.

“This is a testament to our unwavering belief in the potential of agriculture to be a driving force for progress and prosperity,” Dr. Newman stated.

The JBDC is an agency of the Ministry of Industry, Investment and Commerce, mandated to provide business development services to micro, small and medium-sized enterprises.

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Agriculture

Agri-Linkages Exchange Portal Generates $325M In Earnings Between January and May

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The Agri-Linkages Exchange (ALEX) portal has generated earnings of $325 million for farmers during the first five months of 2023.

Minister of Tourism, Hon. Edmund Bartlett, made the disclosure as he closed the 2023/24 Sectoral Debate in the House of Representatives on Tuesday (June 20).

ALEX, which is a joint initiative of the Ministry, through the Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF) and the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA), is the first online platform of its kind in the country.

It brings hoteliers into direct contact with the farmers and, in turn, reduces leakages and helps Jamaica retain more of the economic benefits of tourism.

Mr. Bartlett noted that this significant accomplishment showcases the platform’s effectiveness in connecting farmers with potential buyers and creating prosperous opportunities.

“Furthermore, in the preceding year of 2022, the ALEX portal facilitated the sale of agricultural produce valued at $330 million. This achievement not only highlights the platform’s success but also underscores the positive impact it has had on the livelihoods of 1,733 farmers and 671 registered buyers,” he stated.

Meanwhile, Mr. Bartlett advised that the Agricultural Food Safety Manual has been developed and sensitisation sessions were conducted with more than 400 farmers.

He stated that through the Tourism Linkages Network, water shortages and drought periods were identified as barriers for community farmers supplying the tourism sector.

“To address this, we donated water tanks to farmers in St. Elizabeth, St. James, St. Ann, and Trelawny. In the first phase, 50 tanks were given to farmers in St. Elizabeth and 20 to farmers in St. James. In the second phase, 200 tanks were donated to farmers in St. Ann and Trelawny,” Mr. Bartlett told the House.

He added that the Ministry will “continue this initiative in 2023 to support small farmers, while spreading the tourism benefits to all”.

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Agriculture

Jamaica Now Has Export Market Access to More Countries for Various Agricultural Products

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More local fruits and ground provisions will be able to reach international shores, as Jamaica now has export market access to several additional countries.

Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Mining, Hon. Floyd Green, said among these is Barbados for pineapples.

“We [also] now have market access to Cayman for frozen ackee, soursop, sweetsop, breadfruit, plantain, yam, sweet and Irish potato. We are now allowed to export all of those to the Cayman Islands,” he informed.

The Minister was speaking during the recent launch of the 2023 Denbigh Agricultural, Industrial and Food Show at Hi-Pro Ace Supercentre in St. Catherine.

Mr. Green further advised that “we’ve been working with Trinidad [and Tobago where] we now have access for bananas, and we’ve been working with the United States of America (USA), and we now have access for June plum and soursop.”

Mr. Green commended the Plant Quarantine and Produce Inspection team for their role in achieving the feat.

Noting that these markets are of “high value”, he urged that producers must make use of the new opportunities.

“It means we have to ramp up our production. All of these markets can give us significant returns. What we have to be able to do is to fulfil that demand,” the Minister implored.

Mr. Green maintained that the nation “must be bullish about exports”, pointing out that “that is how we’re truly going to see wealth creation in agriculture; we are a small country, but we have immense reach.”

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Agriculture

Black Castor Oil – Liquid Gold Untapped In Jamaica

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PHOTO: YHOMO HUTCHINSON
Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Hon. Pearnel Charles Jr. (right), is shown a bottle of black castor oil by Jovaughn Bailey of the Jamaica 4-H Clubs, during the Jamaica Bauxite Institute’s (JBI) Castor Industry Forum, dubbed ‘Black Castor Oil – Liquid Gold Untapped’, at the Golf View Hotel in Mandeville, Manchester, on March 15.

Farmers and other stakeholders are being encouraged to collaborate to explore the full potential of the local castor bean.

Minister of State in the Ministry of Transport and Mining, Hon. J.C. Hutchinson, who made the call, said there is an opportunity to tap into the high demand for Jamaican Black Castor Oil, noting that the global market for the product is valued at up to US$100 million.

“This is a truly Jamaican product that must carry brand Jamaica in every way; and I suggest that a committee be established, comprising the Jamaica Bauxite Institute (JBI), Jamaica 4-H Clubs, the Scientific Research Council (SRC), the processors, farmers, JAMALCO, Jamaica Baptist Union (JBU), and the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA), under the chairmanship of the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA),” Mr. Hutchinson said.

He was speaking at the JBI’s Castor Industry Forum, dubbed: ‘Black Castor Oil – Liquid Gold Untapped’, at the Golf View Hotel in Mandeville, Manchester, on March 15.

Mr. Hutchinson said, to realise the potential of the local castor bean, Jamaica needs to have a structured programme which ensures that processors have consistency of supply.

Currently, the product, which has gained popularity worldwide, is not a major farm crop in the island.

“This is too much of an important [product] for it to be faltering by the wayside. I feel strongly about it; so, let us, together, make it work,” Mr. Hutchinson said.

Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Hon. Pearnel Charles Jr., in his remarks, cited the need for training, organisation and planning to maximise opportunities in the industry.

“Across the world, you are looking at US$75 million to US$100 million [worth] of opportunity in this liquid gold; so, we have a massive global opportunity. There is more than enough reason to move to develop the local castor industry,” he said.

“Now, more than ever, when we push for ‘Grow Smart, Eat Smart’, we are saying to Jamaica, it is essential to understand the sector and to utilise every inch of land, refine the processing and utilise the research and development to maintain our standards,” the Minister added.

Mr. Charles urged farmers to ensure they understand and look closely at the science, the different types of seeds, and how they will fare in different parts of the island, before planting.

Currently, a study is being done on the Jamaica black castor bean at the University of the West Indies (UWI) Mona, under the leadership of Director of the Mona Institute of Applied Science, Dr. Howard Reid.

This is being undertaken through a grant facilitated by the JBU and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB).

Upon conclusion, the findings will guide the process of securing the intellectual property rights of the Jamaica Black Castor Oil for the country.

For many years, several companies globally have been producing their own oil, but falsely labelling it ‘Jamaican’.

President of the Jamaica Castor Industry Association (JCIA), Courtney Haughton, said most of the products being marketed as Jamaican Black Castor Oil are fake.

“The only way we can claw back what is ours is if we secure our intellectual property rights. The process includes [the] research now underway at the Mona Institute of Applied Science,” he noted.

Other engagements include standardisation of the product with assistance from the Bureau of Standards Jamaica (BSJ), and producers’ compliance in meeting product standard acceptance in the global market.

Registration at the Jamaica Intellectual Property Office (JIPO) will be the next step, and initial dialogue has begun.

“Our next objective is to protect market integrity, because we will need strategic alliances with people who have the capacity to seek out those in violation of our rights and protect us through legal action,” Mr. Haughton said.

The association has also forged partnerships with the National Council on Technical Vocational Education and Training (NCTVET) and the JBU, to develop a curriculum for training and certification of industry participants.

Already, there is a Level One Module for planting, reaping and storage of castor beans, which has been ratified by the NCTVET Board.

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