Callaloo a growing side business
Shredded callaloo is just one of the many popular brands in the Fresh N Ready line of offering, which includes Stir Fry, Chop Suey, and Vegetable Mix. So when The Gleaner visited the Grace Agro Processors facility in Hounslow, St Elizabeth, and observed callaloo being prepped, washed, and stripped by hand before being shredded by a machine, we could not help but ask about the great demand for the popular vegetable.
General Manager Taji Alleyne explained that this was not for domestic use, but, rather, an order from another processor who exports callaloo.
He explained that while this is an area of additional business the company did not anticipate when it started operations, it makes very good business sense for all involved, with GK Foods now having contractual arrangements to provide shredded bulk callaloo for two processors, who then package the vegetable for export.
"What you see taking place downstairs is a big contract that we have to shred for processors who make canned callaloo. But instead of them having to chop it by hand, we shred the callaloo, put it in 12.5 kilogramme bags and we ship a whole truck load of this to them, and then they just can it for export. That is a project that we actually just started this month (September), and at 20,000 kilogrammes, it is significant for us."
With confirmed orders for delivery of at least 20,000 kilogramme of callaloo per month, which Alleyne says makes Grace the single largest local buyer of callaloo, the company is preparing for the anticipated increased demand for its service in this area.
He told The Gleaner: "What we have is more than 100 contract farmers in our network, but we are going to have to bring on more farmers. We are in the process of bringing them on right now to meet that demand, and we are now buying on the open market. But within the next two months, we will be able to supply through our own network of farmers."
The callaloo contracts came out of a desire the other processors had to cut production time and cost, while meeting demand for the canned product. Originally, they were paying workers to wash, strip, and clean the vegetable, before cutting it by hand, and using knives, which was quite labourious and time-consuming. However, for Grace, which already had a team in place to wash and prepare vegetables for its Fresh N Ready line, it simply meant running another shift, or shifts, given that it already had the relevant infrastructure in place.