JIS News

Tourejon Food Processors Jamaica Limited, located at the Denbigh Industrial Estate, Clarendon, is one company that is helping to increase domestic food crops, while contributing to technology transfer.
They received support under the domestic food crop production programme, currently administered by the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA), on behalf of the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries.
Assistance is provided based on a need analysis survey and can include transfer of technology, land preparation, provision of planting material and negotiation of marketing arrangements to sell produce to hotels, supermarkets or overseas. The goals are to foster best practices within the agricultural sector, produce more domestic food for local consumption, reduce reliance on imports, and provide goods for export markets.
Crops targeted include yellow yam, negro yam, sweet potato, and dasheen, often in short supply on local and export markets. Recently Tourejon began processing these food items through a series of completely high-tech automated processes, and packaging them in vacuum sealed bags for sale on local and overseas markets.
Tourejon director, Norma Russell, says products are mechanically peeled, sliced, sanitised, and packaged.
“Our slogan is ‘Nyam Jamaica.Yam Jamaica’,” she says. “Our products are high in energy, excellent sources of fibre, full of antioxidants, easy to digest and, most importantly, very easy for householders to prepare,” she declared.
Mrs. Russell says that when she and her business partner, Anthony Grant, began thinking of a business venture, they wanted to do something that was innovative and which contributed to nation building.
“I am committed to promoting Jamaican foods and encouraging increased use of local products, which are healthier and can save on imports while contributing to export earnings, hence my product labels ‘ Nyam Jamaica: Yam Jamaica’; ‘Nyam Jamaica: Sweet Potato Jamaica’ or ‘Nyam Jamaica: Dasheen Jamaica,” she tells JIS News.
Local root tubers, better known as ground provisions, used to be staples in the diet of most Jamaican families. Today, with the faster paced modern lifestyle and the influence of television, most families are choosing foods that are easier to buy and prepare.
“The result is that more people are eating less ground provisions and more imported and refined foods, which has lead to a decline in health,” she laments.
The Tourejon director says she is determined to help to change this attiude.
“It’s very simple and easy to prepare our yams, sweet potato or dasheen,” she says. “Just open the package, place the desired amount in boiling water, the oven, casserole dish or on the grill, cook briefly for about six to 10 minutes and serve. Packaged this way, consumers not only have quick and easy access to healthier traditional foods, but can prepare them, not just as the usual boiled food, but in many different delicious ways.” Mrs. Russell says.
She is also proud to point out that numerous recipes are available on the Tourejon website, and that the product has a shelf life of three months.
Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries Dr. Christopher Tufton, has often made reference to what he terms, “Jamaica’s worrying food import bills,” which rose from US$479 million in 2002 to US$662 million in 2007.
He remarks that this is a threat to local food security, and he has made repeated calls for increased production of local foods, while committing the full support of the Ministry and its subsidiary agencies, to help farmers and business persons to achieve this target.
Speaking at the recent launch of Tourejon Food Processors, he described the venture as timely, part of a vision that is more relevant today than ever before and one that is shared with the current administration. He said his Ministry is committed to modernising the agricultural sector, which employs 20 per cent of the Jamaican labour force, making it a primary employer.
He said that Tourejon speaks to the ability of the sector to do more, by adding value to primary production and responding effectively to the needs of the market place while embracing the vision for the sector.
Over the past year, his Ministry has worked to help farmers become more responsive to market needs, while supporting the creation of channels like the Tourejon operation to take off increased produce.
He said it is important that agri-investors understand the matrix of market differences, as well as the demands of handling and processing, in the interest of greater product acceptance and advancing the value added chain. He said more training for farmers would be provided over the next year, in grading, sorting, and post harvest care to move the process forward.
Tourejon Food Processors occupies about 30,000 feet of factory space and plan to expand production levels and items gradually. Currently, they purchase from local farmers but, eventually, intend to grow their own products.
Tourejon has benefitted from technical support from the Scientific Research Council (SRC), RADA, the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, the Jamaica Exporters Association (JEA) and Jamaica Trade and Invest (JTI).

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