Keisha Shakespeare-Blackmore, Staff Reporter
Everyone loves a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice in the morning. But have you ever really thought about how it's made?
On February 24, Trade Winds Citrus, home of Tru-Juice, opened its doors to the media for a journey into the world of orange with the company's managing director, Peter McConnell, as tour guide.
Trade Winds Citrus has four orange farms across the island. But, the farm that journalists toured was the largest, Bybrook Farm in Bog Walk, St Catherine, which sits on 1,100 acres of land. The company's head office and bottling factory are just a few minutes away.
First stop was the nursery. McConnell explained that they plant 80,000 to 100,000 orange seedlings per year and those take between 12 to 15 months to grow and be ready for transplanting. He said that once the seedlings have been transplanted into stock plants they are then budded. A section at the plant is sliced and a variety of orange (usually a sweeter variety), is then wrapped with tape on to the original plant until it is fused. The tape is then removed and the bent plant forces energy to the bud eyes, which push up to become the beginning of a tree. "This is to ensure that we get a sweeter variety of oranges and consistently good quality fruits, because all our juices are 100 per cent juice without any additives."
This process also ensures that the plant produces fruits in five years as opposed to the traditional way which can take up to 20 years, McConnell explained.
From the nursery, the tour took a picturesque route with views of mile after mile of trees that hung low with loads of lovely golden oranges. Workmen were busy harvesting the fruit.
Seven to 800 persons are employed on the farm during the harvesting period. Though the company has its own farm, it also supports local farmers by purchasing oranges from them.
Like most farms, Bybrook is faced with praedial larceny. However, McConnell said that he had a huge security team. "And with the advent of cellular phones, we have what we call paid informants." But, despite those measures, praedial larceny is still a major issue, which McConnell says results in an estimated five per cent loss in profit.
Stopping in the fields, the group met Kevin Henry and Dave Thompson who were both hard at work, filling containers with the juicy fruits. There were women hand-watering the plants as a result of the ongoing drought.
After leaving the farm, our next stop was the factory. Here the oranges are washed, sorted, and either packed in containers for export, local distribution or to be extracted and blended into the refreshing juice.