Sun | Oct 17, 2021

To the rescue! - Businesses turning out new products to reduce COVID-19-induced glut in agricultural produce

Published:Tuesday | May 19, 2020 | 12:19 AMChristopher Serju/Gleaner Writer
In this March 27, 2020 photo, farmer Linton Simpson of Melksham, St Elizabeth, shows thousands of dollars worth of tomatoes reaped but with no market because of the shutdown of the hotel sector due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In this March 27, 2020 photo, farmer Linton Simpson of Melksham, St Elizabeth, shows thousands of dollars worth of tomatoes reaped but with no market because of the shutdown of the hotel sector due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

THE MINISTRY of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries is reporting significant success from an initiative developed as a response to the oversupply of fruits and vegetables due to the disruption of traditional markets by the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic.

State Minister Floyd Green expressed delight at the quick response and commitment of industry players to deviate from their usual course of business to develop another value chain for fruits and vegetables, with vast potential beyond the pandemic, with Trade Winds Citrus and Salada Foods Jamaica the first out of the blocks.

Trade Winds Managing Director Peter McConnell said that when the Government reached out to them for help, the company opted to have a go at tomatoes based on media reports of a glut.

“We said we have a processing facility that processes pretty much any kind of fruit and vegetables. We don’t really have a tomato product now; we would be happy to process tomato and develop a juice if you will use it in your school-feeding programme,” McConnell said they responded.

“So we got samples of the tomato and came up with a tomato-pineapple juice, which we gave the ministry samples of and gave them some pricing, and they were happy with the flavour and happy with the pricing.”

Since then, the company has received tomatoes, which have been crushed, strained and the resulting puréee frozen and stored until the agriculture ministry gives the greenlight for its bottling and delivery.

The vegetable-fruit drink combination has pineapple and tomato blended and flavoured with ginger. It will be marketed as School Juice and distributed by Nutrition Products Limited when the new academic year begins in September.

Green said Salada is looking into whether some of the fruit purées can be sprayed, dried and made into crystals and stored, which can be reconstituted into a drink formula when needed.

He said this was in keeping with the ministry’s ongoing mission to incentivise the private sector to get into the formulation of these products, which, under normal circumstances, companies might not be inclined to research and develop.

“We are very excited about it,” Green acknowledged. “If we could make crystals from some of these juices, we could come up with a whole new value chain.”

Another possible avenue for the utilisation of these products is in the care packages provided by the Government, as well as low-cost, high-nutrition options for use in hospitals, infirmaries, children’s homes and penal institutions. However, Green said that some of these state institutions already have contractual arrangements for the provision of food and refreshment, but it was an avenue he was prepared to explore to help to ease the oversupply of domestic crops.

christopher.serju@gleanerjm.com