JIS News

The Jamaica Agricultural Society (JAS) in collaboration with the Bureau of Standards Jamaica (BSJ), and the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA) on May 2 hosted an ackee seminar themed ‘Saving the Ackee Industry’ at the Denbigh Showground.
The seminar involved farmers, suppliers and processors of ackee.
Chief Inspector in Charge of the BSJ’s Central Division, Delroy Harris said that the ackee industry, worth approximately $400 million in 2005 with potential for further growth, was very fragile because of the fact that it was export oriented and heavily dependent on the confidence of the overseas consumers. He pointed out that the hypoglycin levels in the fruit had to meet certain standards for the export market.
“The U.S.A. accepts 100 parts per million, while the United Kingdom (U.K) or Europe accepts 150 parts per million,” he said noting that anything above these levels would result in dumping of the product.
He explained that hypoglycin is a naturally occurring toxin in ackee, which is in very high levels throughout immature unopened fruit but is absent or in very low levels in the edible portion of mature, naturally opened fruit.
Mr. Harris also pointed that ackee may be harvested from the trees at stage five on the Ackee Maturity Index where the fruit is either red or yellow in colour (no greenness) and the red part can be easily removed from the edible portion.
“It is therefore crucial that farmers, suppliers and processors are aware of the proper stages for harvesting the fruit and to ensure that the fruit is allowed to open naturally either on the trees or on ripening racks within a maximum of three days,” he said
Mr. Harris also informed that there were some eighteen ackee processing factories in Jamaica, six of which had implemented the Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points (HACCP) system, an internationally accepted food safety system of production.
This system, he mentioned, reduced the need to have batch by batch sampling and testing to determine the product’s quality.
Farmers discussed their responsibility which include ensuring that, mature fruit is harvested; harvested fruit can be traced to its origin; only registered suppliers are allowed to reap fruits; overripe fruits are not supplied; trees are managed to ensure that they are not damaged through improper reaping; ackees are stored in sanitary areas far away from hazardous chemicals; ackees are transported in clean crates and palettes that allow for air passage, and ensure that registration is done with RADA, and JAS receipt books acquired.
The farmers were encouraged to form an association, which could provide training, lobby for benefits and do group marketing to ensure that immature fruits did not enter the market.
The training session was one of five with the others held in the parishes of Manchester, Westmoreland, St. Thomas and St. Elizabeth. The training programme commenced last month.