The Jamaica Exotic Flavours and Essences Company (JEFE) in St. Elizabeth is providing farmers with a ready market for their fruits and vegetables, which would otherwise have been rejected by consumers due to small size, or unattractive appearance.
The company, which is the brain child of businessman, Anthony Freckleton, was established in 2006, under a joint venture agreement with the government of Jamaica, which now owns about 90 per cent of the operation.
At the over 1,800-square foot plant located at Bull Savannah, skilled and highly trained workers are utilising technology to produce a range of exotic and high quality purees, flavours and essences from local fruits, vegetables and condiments to international standard. These include mango, watermelon, June plum, cucumber, otaheti apple, guava, tomato, nutmeg, cinnamon, and ginger, which are mainly supplied by farmers within the parish.
These purees and extracts are supplied to the food and beverage industry for use in juices, drinks and baked goods. The operation, not only benefits farmers, but has also positively impacted the community, providing jobs for residents in the area.
Impressed with the operation, Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Hon. Roger Clarke, during a recent visit to the plant, said the company is “on to something good”.
He said with the market that JEFE provides, “nothing needs to be dumped”, therefore cutting down on waste within the agricultural sector. “The raw material that you are using, under normal circumstances, those things would have been dumped, you are rescuing that,” he stated.
“What the farmers get from this will enable them to put back into the farms,” he noted further, while pledging the government’s commitment to the operation.
St. Elizabeth farmer, Nathaniel Rowe, tells JIS News that he is glad to have a market for his small watermelon. “Normally those melons would have gone to waste, most of them, because people don’t buy them. It would have been the end of the crop after you would have sold out the bigger ones,” he says.
He says the presence of the factory serves as a motivation “for us to go on (as) we are losing nothing. We have the land and as long as the farmers know that the market is there, they will continue (to produce).”
Farmer, Ralden Belanfanti, agrees, noting that “at the end of the day, we do not come out as losers anymore. It helps us as farmers to produce more, because none of the produce goes to waste as it used to be.”
Mr. Freckleton, who is the company’s Managing Director, says through partnership with the farmers, the company is producing high quality products to boost the agro-processing sector and reduce the need for imports.
“We have the expertise, we have the most advanced flavour extraction equipment, and when you couple that with the most flavourful products, you are going to get superior products,” Mr. Frekleton tells JIS News, noting that the company has “mastered” the science of flavour extraction.
The company recently signed a five-year contract with Nutrition Product Limited to provide fruit purees for juices, which will be supplied to schools island-wide. Watermelon, June plum, and cucumber are being provided initially, with others to be added over time.
Additionally, through an arrangement with Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA), some 2,000 June plum seedlings will be supplied to farmers for planting, to augment already established plots.
Chairman of the St. Elizabeth RADA board, Derrick Rochester, and Member of Parliament for South East St. Elizabeth, Richard Parchment, both pledge their continued support for the project.
“We are working together for the common good of the farmers of this area and in South Manchester as well, and the rest of Jamaica,” he says.
Mr. Parchment, for his part, says he is “impressed with what is happening here. A lot of things have gone to waste, and with the innovation that is happening, we will be able to use a lot of things."
By Garfield L. Angus, JIS Reporter