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Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Hon. Dr. Christopher Tufton, has lauded the efforts of JP Tropical Foods/St Mary Farm in producing value added products like chips from locally grown foods, including cassava.
Dr. Tufton, who was touring the farm on Friday (July 3) to view its recovery from the devastation of its banana cultivation by Hurricane Dean in 2007, said that the effort exemplifies the diversified approach to agriculture he has been promoting since his budget speech in 2007.
“One year later, I am very pleased to see St. Mary Farm diversifying into the production of regular and barbeque flavoured cassava chips, and increasing cassava production to meet their raw material needs,” the Minister said.
Dr. Tufton had encouraged farmers to consider growing cassava and producing value-added cassava chips, to not only encourage Jamaicans to eat more of what they grow, but also to diversify their production base by developing local products with good investment potential in his 2007/2008 budget speech.
He said that he was greatly encouraged after touring the farm, and commended St. Mary Farm for the effort to recover from the devastation of its banana cultivation by the Hurricane.
He was viewing fields of cassava ready for reaping for the production of cassava chips; sweet potato plots for new sweet potato chip trials; and several hectares of the highly popular MD2 variety of pineapples for market trials.
Managing Director of the Jamaica Producers Group, Jeffery Hall, parent company of St. Mary Farm, acknowledged that it has been a good year for the JP Group, with sales volume up by 300 per cent.
“Volume growth, diversification and new markets have led to our success,” Mr. Hall said.
St. Mary Farm currently grows 50 acres of Colombian Sweet and the Blue Bud varieties of cassava.
Operations Manager of the JP Tropical Foods Factory, Florence Reid, said they obtained planting material from the Ministry of Agriculture’s Bodles Research Station and the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA).
She said last October they began establishing cassava fields, through contract growing arrangements with farmers in the area. Planting began on five-acre plots, she explained, and they are now up to 50 acres and will continue the incremental increase in acreage.
The operations manager also advised that the company plans to launch its sweet potato chips in August. She said tests have already been done on two varieties, the ‘uplifter’ and the ‘quarter million’, both of which have proven best for frying, in terms of crispiness, sugar content and general aesthetic appearance.
The new sweet potato chips will add to the JP Tropical Foods’ snack line of banana, cassava and plantain chips. They are currently doing trials of dasheen chips as well.