JIS News

Pimento or all spice, as it is known internationally, is currently impacting the culinary world, as it is one of the main ingredients in jerk seasonings and mixed spices.
The growing demand for the product, not only for local consumption but for use overseas and in the hospitality industry, has opened up a niche market that is expected to be very profitable for local farmers.
The Ministry of Agriculture and Lands is reporting that the pimento industry is earning an estimated US$5 million annually from exports of whole berries, leaf, berry oils, liqueurs and other value added products. There is also an increasing demand for pimento berries to satisfy the expansion of the jerk market.
With the sudden interest in the product, there are certain guidelines and procedures that must be followed for getting the product from its natural state to acceptable standards for export.
General Manager of the Export Division in the Ministry, Gladstone Barrett tells JIS News that most pimento trees that are conventionally planted, grow very tall and therefore harvesting of the berries involves using varying devices, such as clippers.
Since pimento berries are small in nature, he informs that farmers are encouraged to spread clean material around all trees before the harvesting process begins. By doing so, he says this ensures that the integrity of the berries is maintained.
After harvesting and collection, the General Manager points out that the spice must undergo a curing phase, where they are left in the sun to dry until moisture content is six per cent.
“In the drying process, we encourage farmers to spread canvasses on concrete surfaces to ensure that they are free from foreign matter, such as animals and pests that could contaminate the product,” he says.
Once the drying process is completed, the cured berries are transported to the export division where a further cleaning process is done either manually or mechanically at which time they are packaged for shipping. For shipping, the pimento is placed into jute bags to prevent insect infestation and assist in the aeration process. They are then placed in a container and fumigated before shipment.
Apart from being used in spices and jerk seasonings, Mr. Bennett says the pimento is used in spices for varying dishes, pastry, flavouring in pharmaceuticals and fish processing. The leaves are also processed to produce pimento oil and the berries are used to make pimento liqueur.
Pimento is not a cash crop, as reaping can take place within three to five years of planting. Therefore, the General Manager is encouraging farmers to develop orchards that are modern, utilizing quality materials.
“In this regard, the Ministry is currently in discussion with the bio-tech division at the University of the West Indies (UWI) to fine-tune a vegetative propagation technique to produce a plant that is a lot shorter, more robust and characteristics that are known and desirable, such as high yielding,” he says.
Mr. Barrett notes that one area that has to be scrutinized is the determination of sex characteristics, as currently there is no way to distinguish male from female.
“When you plant pimento berries what you will get is a tree that you cannot determine if it is male or female. The male tree will not bear fruit, so we want to determine the sex characteristics,” he explains.
Another area to be probed, Mr. Barrett tells JIS News, is the setting up of DNA profiles to differentiate strains of pimento, by identifying genetic markers in the plant, in order to classify plants from different parts of the island.Other major producers of pimento in the region include Honduras, Guatemala and Mexico.

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