Tue | Feb 18, 2020

Trade Winds diversifies into pineapples, dairy plan delayed

Published:Saturday | February 16, 2019 | 12:26 AM
Peter McConnell, managing director of Trade Winds Citrus Limited, at the company's complex in Bog Walk, St Catherine. File
Peter McConnell, managing director of Trade Winds Citrus Limited, at the company's complex in Bog Walk, St Catherine. File

Trade Winds Citrus’s ambition to become a dairy producer is still unfulfilled after 18 months awaiting permits for its preferred cattle breed.

The agro-processing company is more advanced on another initiative as a producer of pineapples, which are intended for retail distribution as well as raw material for its juice plant in a replica of its other farming operations.

“We are preparing 75 acres of land for pineapple,” said Managing Director of Trade Winds, Peter McConnell. “We have planted approximately 12.5 acres and will continue our planting programme over the next few months to complete this first phase of the project.”

The company expects to start reaping fruit by September. Its target markets for sales include supermarkets, hotels, restaurants, fresh produce markets and street vendors, as well as exports to Caricom markets under its flagship Tru-Juice brand.

Trade Winds core business is the production of juices. The company also operates orchards that provide raw material for its beverages, but its citrus groves, like other farms nationally, have been hit by the Citrus Greening disease – leading to continued drop in production over the past decade and a 65 per cent decline in citrus yields within that time.

The fallout has left Trade Winds with unproductive lands. The pineapple and diary projects are part of the resolution to that problem, and other ideas are in gestation.

“We continue to satisfy the local market with fresh oranges and juice, but the days of exporting large quantities of fresh fruit and concentrates are over – for now,” said McConnell.

“While we have started the replanting of citrus on a relatively small scale, we are looking for other crops that can utilise our vast acreage of land and add value to our business. We have identified pineapples and dairy cows as the opportunities that we want to diversify into. Not only do they fit into our core business of producing and distributing high quality agro-based beverages, but they spread our risk across multiple crops rather than the mono-crop policy that we once followed.”

Trade Winds has four citrus farms spanning around 2,700 acres.

As for the dairy project, the agro-processor says he already has the pastures earmarked but is holding back on executing the project until he receives the go-ahead to import his desired cattle breed.

Trade Winds is going after a “high-yielding dairy breed” from Costa Rica, and has applied for permit to import live animals or embryos, but is still awaiting word from the government, 18 months later.

“We are confident that if we are allowed to import this breed, that within 7-10 years, Jamaica will be self-sufficient in dairy production,” the agro-processor said.

He adds that the foreign breed he is targeting “currently yields more than double the average of the Jamaica Hope in tropical conditions”.

“We are extremely frustrated with the delay,” said McConnell. “While we support the current GOJ policy of economic growth and prosperity, we feel that more attention needs to be paid by the policymakers to clear some of the ‘legacy policies’ that have retarded Jamaica’s growth over the past decades,” he said.

“While adequate control of pests and disease is a critical factor in protecting and developing our agriculture, it should not be a barrier to development," he added.