Sun | Oct 21, 2018

CB Group onion investment could bring massive import savings

Published:Tuesday | May 8, 2018 | 12:00 AMPaul Clarke/Gleaner Writer
Imagination Farms Operations Manager Don McGlashan (left) and Agriculture Minister Audley Shaw examine onions cultivated on during a recent tour of the agricultural facility.

Imagination Farms, a subsidiary of the Caribbean Broilers Group of Companies (CB), has invested heavily in the cultivation of onions, which could result in the country's import bill of the spice being slashed by 10 per cent.

Jamaica's import bill, which now stands at US$1 billion per year, is three times higher than the export bill, thereby making the demand for sustainable agriculture more necessary.

Under its Homegrown brand, Imagination Farms is already producing onions at First-World standards, according to Mathew Lyn, CB group chief operating officer.

"We are estimating that at the end of this year, we would have produced enough onions that would eliminate 10 per cent of the [quantity] imported," said Lyn.

Approximately 800 acres of onions were being cultivated in Jamaica up to 1996, but the onion sector has seen a dramatic decline, with nearly 90 per cent of the crop consumed locally being imported.

With a projected reap of 37 tonnes of onions by the end of the year, Homegrown is getting ready to be a part of the local onion revival, which could lead to a reduction in importation.

Imagination Farms Operations Manager Don McGlashan said that precision planting had been the main factor behind the successful crop.

"With a combination of land preparation, drip irrigation, pest control, fertilisation, weed management and, of course, a good crop, we have been able to produce onions that store very well and are excellent in taste and pungency," said McGlashan.

"Many of the crops imported can be planted here," stated McGlashan. "We just need the will, business acumen, vision and the implementation. What we have done with onions at Imagination Farms is exactly that - implementation on a large scale that has produced amazing results our country can enjoy," he said.

Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries Minister Audley Shaw has praised Homegrown, while describing as "ridiculous" the necessity of importing onions.

"At least now, with Homegrown, we do not have to worry about our onions being out at sea for extended periods before it reaches our plates; we know now that we are getting fresh, nutrient-rich foods," Shaw declared.

paul.clarke@gleanerjm.com