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Destined to grow despite water woes

Published:Sunday | October 26, 2014 | 12:00 AM
John Allen, general manager of Sapphire Agriculture.-Ian Allen/Photographer

Jamaican arm of US fertiliser company targets expansion even with drought setback

Andrew Harris, Sunday Gleaner Writer

The recent drought has severely impacted the planned expansion of the latest addition to the country's suppliers of fertiliser.

Sapphire Agriculture Jamaica, which opened its doors in Jamaica seven months ago, says despite strong review of its products, the impact has not been as great because of the drought.

"The vegetable farmers and coffee nurseries have reported excellent results in terms of the quality of the product," said John Allen, general manager of Sapphire Agriculture.

"However, the drought was the worst the country has seen and it has set back our operations," added Allen as he pointed to the development of the local arm of the company which has its parent base in the United States.

According to Allen, Sapphire Agriculture expects to add value to the local agriculture industry through its products and by educating farmers.

"We have been on the ground with the farmers teaching them the proper way to apply the fertiliser and how to make sure the soil maintains its value," said Allen.

He added that the company has been distributing its high quality NPK (Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium) fertilisers to farmers and has worked with sugar cane growers Pan Caribbean, Wallenford Coffee Company and a number of vegetable farmers.

BETTER QUALITY

Allen, who has been working in the fertiliser industry for decades, argued that the use of the Sapphire organic fertiliser by farmers is giving them better quality for the same dollar value.

He told The Sunday Gleaner that farmers have been seeing good results from Fertiplus, a fertiliser that is made from chicken litter.

"The organic chicken litter delivers nutrients to soil and crops in a slow-release action that improves soil aeration, water filtration and prevents leaching, run-off and soil erosion," said Allen as he argued that farmers who use this product will see better returns per acre or hectare.

Sapphire now manufactures its products in the Dominican Republic, but Allen said the long-term plan is to manufacture the fertiliser here and grow the company from its present four employees.

"Well, we are looking at how we can employ Jamaicans in the future when our operation expands, but the bigger picture is that Sapphire LLC out of the United States is operating across the Caribbean and the results it will bring back will benefit the agricultural sector in the region."