Young entrepreneur, Andrew Khan, is seeking a foothold in the lucrative natural health market, with his flavourful and nutritious Moringa teas.
Through his Jablo Enterprise, based in St. Elizabeth, the 22-year old is producing and marketing a Moringa sorrel tea blend and is looking to offer a ginger flavour this month.
The teas are being sold at some supermarkets in Kingston and St. Andrew and will soon be available in Portmore.
“Things are going well so far,” Khan says of his year old operation. “I’m trying to step up production right now because there is a high demand for (the teas),” he told JIS News.
The proud entrepreneur, who is the recipient of the 2012 Prime Minister’s Youth Award for Entrepreneurship, is not a scientist or natural health expert, and says his entry into the market was purely by accident.
Having just completed his degree in Entrepreneurship at the University of the West Indies (UWI), he was looking for the perfect business opportunity, and decided to take advantage of the expanse of unused land at his family home in St. Elizabeth.
He told JIS News that he wanted to cultivate a plant that would be resistant to the dry St. Elizabeth weather and would be “immune” to praedial larcenists. At first, he thought of the aloe vera plant, but then he stumbled on the Moringa seeds.
The plant is known as the miracle tree because of its nutritional and famed curative properties.
Khan says he did extensive research on the plant and he approached a lecturer at UWI, who verified its benefits. Its nutritional value was also confirmed by the Scientific Research Council (SRC) and the Bureau of Standards.
Khan says that Moringa leaves have four times more Vitamin A than carrots; four times the Vitamin E of almonds; seven times the Vitamin C of orange; four times more calcium than milk; and seven times more potassium than bananas. Additionally, he told JIS News, it contains essential amino acids required by the human body.
Enthused by the possibilities, and applying the theories he learnt at UWI, Khan launched his business in 2012. He capitalized the venture with $150,000 he received for winning the UWI Guild of Students Business Plan Competition in 2010 and with donations from family members.
Khan planted half an acre of the Moringa and provided seedlings to farmers in the area, from whom he also makes purchases. He sources the sorrel from other farmers.
“It is a source of income for the farmers,” he said of his business.
The production process, he told JIS News, involves first hand picking the leaves, washing them and then drying them in a steam dryer. The leaves are next placed in a grinding machine and then packed in tea bags by a packing machine. Finally, they are attractively packaged for the market.
Khan said all the profits have been pumped back into the business, which he plans to expand. He also is laying plans to increase the land under cultivation to one acre, in addition to adding a ginger-flavoured tea. “So there’s now an opportunity for farmers to grow more ginger,’ he said.
Khan is proud of his fledgling business, which he said, is providing employment and an income for other farmers. Khan said he also plans to export the product and has already sold a few tea packages to persons overseas.
“I’ll step up production, look for opportunities for export to start earning some foreign exchange, which will be good for the economy,” he pledged.
But it was not all smooth sailing for Khan to get everyone to buy into his vision.
“At first, persons did not know what the Moringa plant was, so convincing them that it was a really a good plant and that its product will do well and getting farmers in
St. Elizabeth to believe in what I was doing and grow the plant was the most difficult part,” he recalled.
Another challenge is the lack of adequate water supply in the area, but Khan says he plans to install a drip irrigation system on his farm.
The young entrepreneur told JIS News that he was elated at receiving the Youth Award from Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Portia Simpson Miller, earlier this year.
“During the ceremony when I heard my name being called, I almost had a heart attack. My heart started pumping hard, but I was able to walk up on stage and receive the award from the Prime Minister,” he said.
“Just hearing her say, ‘Well done’ was really good. It showed that the Prime Minister actually believed in my vision and my business,” he said, noting that the publicity he had received after winning the award has propelled the marketing of the product.
Contact: Elaine Hartman Reckord