JIS News

When mining operations began in Lime Tree Garden, St. Ann decades ago, life in the small, farming community changed forever.Expansive lands in the rural hilly region, once used for agricultural production, were claimed by the Kaiser Bauxite Company, which built haul roads to the deposits and relocated persons, who lived in the immediate mining area.
Residents, who once depended on farming for their livelihood, now had to find alternative sources of employment and some left the community to work in the tourism sector and other areas outside of agriculture.
Years later, when Kaiser resettled the area and introduced peanut farming as part of the land reclamation process, a group of enterprising women pursued their collective vision of using peanuts to make different types of products.
Initially, the women started their operations in the canteen at the Lime Tree Garden Infant School but, as their enterprise blossomed, space became a problem and they sought a different location to conduct their business.
The Kaiser Bauxite Company came to the rescue, and in 2001, the company sourced a plot of land and erected a building that could accommodate a factory.
The company then sought assistance from the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA) and the Jamaica Social Investment Fund (JSIF) to furnish the building. Among the equipment provided were a state-of-the-art industrial stove, a machine known as a sheller to shell the peanuts, an oven, a refrigerator and a freezer to store the products.
Kent Skyers, Public and Community Relations Officer at St. Ann Jamaica Bauxite Partners, which bought Kaiser in 2004, tells JIS News that “we have developed a good relationship with the residents and we are involved in many projects that seek to empower and assist the community”.
Mr. Skyers notes that at the beginning of the peanut enterprise, “we realised the importance of having the factory standing on its own feet so what we did at the company was get the land prepared and along with the Jamaica Bauxite Institute, we got this building imported and brought it down. It was imported by our company, and we had it installed here”.
He says the company “saw how committed the people were, they were working hard, the facilities at the school were not adequate and we believed that we should assist to get it bigger”.
He indicates that a critical function of the bauxite company is rehabilitating mined-out land and using the reclaimed lands for peanut farming, will provide a source of raw material for the factory. “That is what we were interested in and we are seeking new ways of helping the factory to increase output,” he adds.
Assistant Supervisor of the Lime Tree Garden Peanut Factory, Hyacinth Thomas, tells JIS that seven women and two men make up the workforce at the factory, which produces peanut bullas, cakes and punches, in addition to salted and roasted peanuts.
She recalls that prior to having a processing plant, labour was more tedious, as everything had to be done by hand. With the intervention of RADA, JSIF, and the bauxite company providing factory space, water tanks, and pertinent machinery, operations have become more efficient.
“We have a building, which is the most important part because without a building, we wouldn’t have a factory, and then they gave us a sheller and a stripper.we got water from Kaiser, which we could not purchase on a weekly basis,” she relates to JIS News. “They (Kaiser) have given us whatever we need, if the machine breaks down, we just call them, they fix it for us and even with the farmers around, they do assist them in planting the peanut for the factory by giving them seeds, tractor for the land, and giving them fertiliser so they play a great role in this factory,” Miss Thomas notes.
Providing a list of the factory’s clients, she says they include the surrounding shops and supermarkets, the Sandals chain of hotels, Margaritaville in Montego Bay, and several others. Additionally, she points out, there are a growing number of persons, who visit the factory to purchase the products when they are returning from overseas.
In terms of the likelihood of expanding the factory, Mr. Skyers says this remains a distinct possibility if demand for the products increases.
“Right now, the main market is local shops and supermarkets,” he says, but given the expanding tourist industry with additional hotel rooms and more tourists visiting St. Ann, he projects that “the demand for the peanut product will be there and we will have to do an expansion”.
“It all depends on how the demand for the product goes. Once they are not able to supply the demand, we will have to do an expansion. As it is now, they are able to supply the demand. We are just trying to increase the production of the peanut in the field and hopefully market the products more, so that more persons out of St. Ann can know of the products here,” he notes.
Aside from the success the factory has experienced in its brief existence, Mr. Skyers says there are still challenges that are being encountered. “One of the main challenges is that the supply of peanut is not constant. Many farmers tend to produce at the same time and there is an oversupply of peanut and the factory is not able to take off that from the farmers, so the farmers are disappointed when that happens and they tend not to produce for the next crop. The whole idea is to get the farmers in a system where they can produce to satisfy the demand of the factory; not everybody producing at the same time,” he points out.
However, he remains confident of the factory’s chances of growing even further, and cites the rave reviews its products have received from persons outside of Jamaica.
“When we have cricket at the sports club in Discovery Bay, and the peanut punch is sold there, people from other islands like Trinidad and Barbados have said that in terms of quality of the punch, it is far superior to what they have,” he notes.

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