Growth & Jobs | Tops in tea - Manchester entrepreneur aims to transform local market
A company which was started in Manchester with $300 in 1980 is now making its presence felt across the island and on the international platform.
Norman Wright, managing director of Perishables Jamaica Limited, a small manufacturing company, said he is happy that he can be a part of Jamaica's development.
The Gleaner caught up with Wright at the Manchester Pavilion at the 65th staging of the Denbigh Agricultural Show in Clarendon, displaying some of the popular teas produced under the Tops and the Sipacupa brands.
Ginger, bissy, cerasee, cinnamint, cinnamon and peppermint are just a few of the many teas the company markets.
Wright said that initially, when they started production, it was just peppermint; today, they are doing more than 15 teas with even more to come on stream, such as rosemary and 'search mi heart'.
"We are about transforming Jamaica's tea market," said Wright, who shared that they are now exporting to the United States, Canada and the wider Caribbean.
Unlike most small business operators who are hampered by high production expenses, with the main challenge being the high cost of electricity, Wright doesn't have that to deal with that. Thanks to the PetroCaribe Fund, he generates his own electricity to run the operations during the day and sells the Jamaica Public Service the reserves.
Outlet for local farmers
Wright said that he also ensures Jamaican farmers have an outlet to sell their produce, as he works with about 500 of them from across the island.
"We are now working on developing some connections with farmers to grow ginger," he said, pointing out that last year, they didn't do much production of ginger teas as it was in short supply.
Admitting he could have sourced ginger from other places, he said he chose not to. "It is in our best interest not to sell ginger that is not Jamaican because we did not want to produce any that wasn't authentic. We must live up to what we promote on the package as it may compromise the quality, so we stay away from those," he said.
Some local produce being dumped because of importation
In Perishables Jamaica Limited's nearly 37 years of operations, Norman Wright said that they have been through a lot of challenges - hurricanes included - and have weathered the storms.
"Our mission is to help the Jamaican economy even through the challenges of inconsistent supplies of raw materials, control issues, the whole question of drought sustainability," he said.
Wright had a word for those who continue to import goods that can be produced in the country as, he said, they too have a role to play in ensuring that Jamaica's farmers don't suffer.
"The Jamaican public should get a weekly printout in the newspapers saying how we spend our money the previous week, what kind of products were bought and how many of them were locally produced," is the suggestion offered by Wright.
"We should be able to say to the public, 'This is how we spent our money last week, buying overseas things we as a people, who are independent and emancipated, should be able to produce here'," he said.
The sad part, according to Wright, is that some of what farmers are producing has to be dumped as a result of the importation.
"There's a disconnect in who imports and exports and who are producing. We need better communication," are his impassioned words.