Crab lover claws his way into successful enterprise
After a lifelong love and having started taking crab farming professionally six years ago, Jermaine Morris is dreaming of growing his business to a level where he can ultimately tap into the export market.
Morris told The Gleaner that he developed a soft spot for the crustaceans from a young age, so it was no surprise that his passion for the ‘walking delicacy’ has propelled him into creating a business out of it.
The 42-year-old Westmoreland-born Morris, popularly known as ‘Crabby’, has established a crab farm in Rock district, near Falmouth, in Trelawny, where he is rearing land crabs, sea crabs, mud crabs, gas crabs, and river crabs. His three crab pens can collectively hold 5,400 crabs.
“As a very young child, I couldn’t wait for crab season so I could catch and eat them,” said Morris, reflecting on the genesis of his passion for crabs. “I brought this love for crabs with me for years and so I decided I would do crab farming. Now, I hunt every other day.”
He is expanding his knowledge of crabs as he plans to grow his business.
“First, I am trying to start here with local markets in Jamaica to package and sell it. The norm for me is to cook them live and sell them on the road, but I am currently doing more research on crabs in and out the shell,” he told The Gleaner, adding, “Expanding is everything for me. The vision that I have is to do packaging and exporting.”
Faced many challenges
Despite his zeal to succeed, it was not all smooth sailing. Morris had to endure many challenges during the initial stages as he started out with too big an operation, costing him dearly as he didn’t know enough to avoid some of his losses.
“I lost a lot of money because I had to shut down my bar and restaurant due to the main road closing. Making matters worse, COVID-19 came and I couldn’t keep up with my car payments so the bank took the car that I would use to do deliveries and pick-ups,” said Morris.
However, at present, business is booming, and much to Morris’ delight, his sales are now surpassing what he used to earn from his bar and restaurant.
“Over the years, I realised there was a demand, so I decided to expand with the demand that was coming in,” said Morris, who has incorporated his family in the business. “It is like a family affair. I love crab farming with my family.”
According to Morris, the crab season begins in April and ends in June. He said when crabs are mating, within a couple of days or hours, you will find the females with a lot of eggs.
“After three weeks, one female crab can litter and fill my three pens with eggs … ,” explained Morris.
“You will find the female crabs, but not as much as the males. If you want to find female crabs, you will have to go to the ocean edge. Just like humans, the female crabs will stay home and the male crabs will travel and search for other female crabs,” added Morris.
Reminiscing on some fun experiences, Morris laughed heartily as he recalled being approached by a crocodile one night while he was out crab hunting with a family member.
“He (the relative) ran into a crocodile and ran back home and left everything in the bush. That, I must say, was one of the funniest experiences I have had,” said Morris.
When he first moved to Trelawny in 1999, Morris said his first crab hunt was a disaster as after nearly five hours, he only caught 12 crabs. Disappointed, he decided to go back to Westmoreland to hunt crab, and that paid off handsomely.
“It (the catch) was so much that I couldn’t find anywhere to store them all, so I gave some away to residents in the area,’’ said Morris.
“If you want to do crab farming and be successful, take it seriously and make the time. It is just like raising any other animal, you have to clean and take care of it.” he advised.
To celebrate his success, the crab-loving Morris and his family created the annual Trelawny Crab Fest, where they would give away free crabs and free rides to children. Unfortunately, the annual event was not staged last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In addition to his crab farm, Morris is also venturing into chickens, pigeons, and rabbit rearing. He hopes to become a major supplier of these meats to the local hotel sector.