Christopher Serju, Gleaner Writer
ORANGE RIVER, St Mary:
SALADA FOODS Jamaica Limited and P.A. Benjamin Manufacturing Company have partnered with the agriculture ministry to invest in a project to provide 'seed' stock for a ginger-turmeric project at the Orange River Research Station in St Mary.
Describing the private-public sector initiative as a sustainable and remunerative investment opportunity, Minister of Fisheries and Agriculture, Roger Clarke, used Thursday's launch at the station to challenge other companies to follow their lead in helping to grow the sector.
Mindful that investors had got burnt in the past, Clarke promised the ministry would guarantee legally binding purchase contracts which would be executed through its export division. Under the project, some 250 acres of ginger and 350 acres of turmeric will be planted this year and Salada, which has already found some success with its instant ginger tea, jumped at the opportunity to help finance some of the planting material.
Seed stock grown under protected environment (greenhouse or shade house) at Orange River will be used to provide planting for open-field cultivation. From the 150 acres of ginger planted, it is projected that an additional 210 metric tonnes of ginger will be produced in 2013.
For this reason, Salada Foods welcomed the opportunity to invest in the project, which will in turn redound to the company's benefit as General Manager Julian Rodney explained.
"We have found that our product, since we introduced it in October, the demand for it locally and internationally has significantly increased and, so, we have decided to go 100 per cent with the Jamaican ginger," said Rodney.
Salada offers an instant ginger which is brewed by adding hot water to the ginger powder and which consumers have reportedly found to be just as potent as the 'real' ginger - delivering a superior aroma and taste to ginger tea bags.
His company, according to Rodney, is treating the project as a long-term investment. Said he: "We expect that over the next one to two years, our investment will grow significantly facilitating a massive increase in raw ginger from the Jamaican market. Salada is able to purchase the entire quantity of ginger produced in Jamaica and that will solely meet our domestic demand. Based on the numbers that we have seen, we are looking at about 300,000 pounds."
Despite the strong local and international demand for Jamaican ginger, production declined from 900 metric tonnes during the 1990s to a paltry 298 metric tonnes in 2008. This was largely due to the devastating effect of two diseases - bacterial wild and rhizome rot.
The Orange River project will ensure the production and dissemination of clean planting material to farmers for use in open-field cultivation.