Sat | Aug 19, 2017

JP Tropical automates pine packing

Published:Sunday | April 16, 2017 | 4:00 AMSteven Jackson
David Martin

JP Tropical Foods plans to grow its pineapple cultivation by nearly 50 per cent this year.

To facilitate speedier processing of the perishable fruit, JP Tropical, a subsidiary of Jamaica Producers Group, will spend $48 million to develop a packing plant for its pineapple operation in St Mary.

The plant, to be commissioned in May, will automate the washing, waxing and bagging of the fruit. The process is now done manually by hand. It will come on stream at a time when JP is ramping up production of pines, having expanded its fields by 12 hectares to 37 hectares.

Each hectare can produce 45,000 pineapples, said general manager of JP Tropical Foods, David Martin. This could translate to roughly 1.6 million pineapples on the 37 hectares. Checks by Gleaner Buisness reveal that some farms in Latin America can produce even more than 70,000 pines per hectare.

JP is investing in the plant to improve productivity. It allows the company to operate with a greater degree of efficiency, utilising the same number of workers, 308, employed at the company's St Mary farms that also produce other crops, including bananas.

"If we didn't have the packing plant, then we would have to invest in more staff," said Martin.

JP sells its pineapples mostly for local consumption - to hotels, supermarkets and the wholesale trade. The company said demand outstrips supply of its MD-2 type pineapples.

The National Environment and Planning Agency, in its March

filings, revealed the plans by JP Tropical Foods for the construction and operation of facilities for food processing at Chocolate Walk, Agualta Vale, St Mary.

At the same time, JP, in a release last Wednesday, announced plans to double banana production in time for the back-to-school season, beginning September 2017. JP sells the ripe fruit in Jamaica through a network of vendors and grocery outlets, but its banana chips snack is sold in eight countries.