Rural Express: Peanut factory to get SDC boost
Carl Gilchrist, Gleaner Writer
LIME TREE GARDEN, St Ann:WITH NOVEMBER being observed as Community Month, the Social Development Commission (SDC) in St Ann has been focusing on highlighting the activities of several communities in the parish, even as they seek to implement the Local Economic Development programme.
Among the projects the SDC and its partners have visited during November are the aquaponics project in Walkerswood, craft and jewellery making in St Ann's Bay; vegetable farming and brick making in Old Folly, Discovery Bay; water bottling in Sturge Town; greenhouse farming in Summer Hill; water harvesting in Watt Town; goat rearing in Linton Park; farming and tourist trail in Nine Miles and the peanut factory in Lime Tree Garden.
One of the standout projects has been the peanut factory, which, despite reduced production and cut in staff complement, is still very much viable.
The factory has been in operation for well over 15 years, according to a member of the group operating the business, Margaret Bramwell.
"We get peanuts from farmers in St Ann. Sometimes we have to go to St Elizabeth or Westmoreland to buy," Bramwell told Rural Xpress on Wednesday.
The factory makes peanut punch, which is the top seller, peanut cakes and cinnamon and jerk-flavoured salted peanuts.
The factory actually started in the canteen at the Lime Tree Gardens primary school. Later, about 12 years ago, Noranda Bauxite and Jamaica Social Investment Fund donated a building to house the project.
At one point, the factory employed up to 15 people, but because of financial difficulties, the number has been reduced to six, with two persons now being trained prior to taking up employment there.
Part of the problem has to do with the availability of peanuts. Whenever the factory is forced to seek peanuts in St Elizabeth or Westmoreland, the cost skyrockets.
"The recent drought really affected planting. We do the farming in mined out areas that the bauxite company has made available, so if we have a dry week, we are in trouble. When we go St Elizabeth, we have to pay $180 to $200 per pound and when we do that, everything falls back."
If more land was made available for planting peanuts, it would make operations at the factory more feasible, she declared.
Another problem facing the operators is broken-down equipment at the factory, which has forced the workers to do a lot of the work manually.
It is problems like these that have seen a drop in sales. At one point, the factory supplied hotels in St Ann with their products on a regular basis, but were unable to keep up to the regular demands and lost out.
"Right now, we're doing things by hand so we can't even look for a market for the products until we get the equipment repaired."
Later this month, the SDC will recognise communities that have been involved in projects such as those mentioned above and according to parish manager for St Ann, Richardo Aiken, the SDC has invited partners who, hopefully, will develop long-term relationships with the communities and assist in furthering the projects.