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Over 130,000 Jamaicans students should be enjoying the benefits of locally produced melon and June Plum juices next January, as part of their school feeding programme diet.
Director of the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries’ Centre of Excellence, Dr. Derrick Deslandes, says that the 130,000 students are just a pilot, as it could be expanded to include about 600,000 students feeding on locally produced juices, eggs and milk, if the project succeeds.
“We are going into a pilot programme to introduce a mix between melon and June Plum into the school feeding programme starting early next month, and we are going to introduce this into the system by next January,” Dr. Deslandes told Friday night’s (November 20) 35th anniversary dinner of the Small Business Association of Jamaica (SBAJ).
He said that three Ministers of Government- Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Hon. Dr. Christopher Tufton, Minister of Education, Hon. Andrew Holness and the Minister of Industry, Investment and Commerce, Hon. Karl Samuda – submitted the proposal to Cabinet last week Monday, and it was approved.

Minister of State in the Ministry of Industry, Investment and Commerce, Hon. Michael Stern, right, in the company of Director of the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries’ Centre of Excellence, Dr. Derrick Deslandes, at Friday’s (November 20) 35th anniversary dinner of the Small Business Association of Jamaica at the Hilton Kingston Hotel.

Once the programme kicks in January, there will be a demand for 500,000 pounds of melon, creating a value chain, immediately, and farmers will also be assured of a consistent income, he noted.
“It means that now we are going to take that melon and we are going to puree it and store it, so that when the melon crop fails, we still have melon in storage that we can utilise. June Plum, the same thing,” Dr. Deslandes said.
He related that the idea for the project was triggered by melon and June Plum gluts, which left the Ministry figuring what to do to help farmers with the excess fruits.
“We had two years of June Plum backed up in the system that we could not move. So we looked around and realised that the school feeding programme looked like a good target,” he recalled.

It’s smiles all around as Small Business Association of Jamaica’s director, Dollis Campbell (second left), makes a comment to Director of the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries Centre of Excellence, Dr. Derrick Deslandes, as he arrived at the Hilton Kingston Hotel for SBAJ’s 35th anniversary dinner on Friday (November 20). In the background are President of Jamaica Trade and Invest (JTI), Sancia Templer (second right), and GIFTE Caribbean’s Chief Executive Officer, Paul Bryan. Dr. Deslandes was guest speaker at the function.

He said that it took the Ministry six-eight months to convince the other stakeholders about the viability of the project. Now, the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries is working on adding citrus juices to the menu.
“We have 150,000 kilograms of (citrus concentrate) in Bog Walk, can’t move, and we are hoping to do a second day (of the school feeding programme), targeting orange juice or some variation,” he explained.
“The whole idea is that we are going to start with one day per week (of the programme), perfect it, and then we move into two, three, four or five days per week,” he added.
He said that the Ministry was also looking at utilising liquid egg in the project, as a tremendous amount of locally produced eggs are going to waste, currently, but could replace over $200 million worth of butter milk imports.
He pointed out that the idea is that every day of the week the school feeding programme must be supplied by local products, including fruit juices, liquid egg and milk.
A nutritious meal per day from Jamaican farmers for 600,000 students would have a significant impact on agriculture, Dr. Deslandes predicted.
Master of Ceremony was Oscar Derby. The President of the SBAJ, Dalma James, welcomed the guests. Two past presidents, Edward Chin-Mook and Oswald Smith, were honoured.

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