The joy of being able to provide employment for fellow parishioners, is one of the main reasons why St. Elizabeth pepper farmer, Damion Dickens, is happy to have secured a supply contract with the island’s top food manufacturer, GraceKennedy.
Mr. Dickens, along with several other farmers across the island, is providing hot pepper for the company’s pepper mash facility in Hounslow, located in the bread basket parish.
Speaking in a recent interview with JIS News, Mr. Dickens, who cultivates approximately five acres of pepper, said he has had a contractual arrangement with the company, through its division, Grace Agro Processors, for almost one year. He said the partnership has been successful to date.
“The contract has worked out beneficially because you get to provide jobs to a lot of persons in the community and Grace is always on time whenever payment is to be made. I have had no payment discrepancy,” he said.
He lauded the move by GraceKennedy to enter into contractual arrangements with local farmers for the supply of the commodity, noting that “it is opening doors for a lot of persons and a lot of persons get jobs.”
First Time Venture
In January, 10 farmers from four parishes benefited from contracts valued at $3.4 million to supply hot peppers. They hail from the parishes of Clarendon, St. Mary, St. Elizabeth and St. Catherine, and form the most recent batch of farmers to profit from the ongoing initiative by GraceKennedy.
Carlington Darby, one of the beneficiaries, said he is optimistic about the venture. The St. Elizabeth farmer told JIS News that while he has cultivated numerous crops over the years, including melon, sweet pepper and pumpkin, this will be the first time he is planting hot pepper.
Mr. Darby, who has been a farmer for 13 years, plans to cultivate the crop on two acres of land, which has already been prepared.
He said one of the main reasons he has partnered with GraceKennedy is to secure a market for his crop.
“I think this is a very good venture to go in especially with a company like Grace. Once (you’re) with Grace you have a place to market your produce without having any fear that it will stay on you, like with a glut or anything like that,” he said.
He explained that technical officers from GraceKennedy have been providing vital information regarding the overall planting exercise.
Steady Market & Support
Echoing similar sentiments, Barrington Williams, who hails from St. Catherine, said the agreement with GraceKennedy will now provide him with a reliable market for his produce.
“It will be a constant turnover because you know where your crop will go after you finish planting it because most of the time you plant a crop, you have nowhere to sell it,” he said.