Cabbrina Lennox, Gleaner Writer
ISLINGTON, St Mary:
DUDLEY CHAMPAGNIE has made a bold step in trying to put Friendship, Islington, in St Mary, on the map by canning the exotic fruit soursop, which is also known as graviola in some countries.
Champagnie, a graduate of the Jamaica School of Agriculture, had worked as a member of the Rural Agricultural Development Authority extension team in May Pen, Clarendon. However, it is through his work at the Bogle's Agriculture Research Station that he has come to really know the soursop fruit as well as its nutritional and medicinal value.
Champagnie returned home after the death of his father, who was chairman of the All-Island Banana Growers' Association and operated a banana farm in Pembroke Hall, St Mary, while growing soursop and pimento on another farm in Islington.
As a result of the decline in the banana sector, Champagnie turned his attention to the farm in Islington where he developed about 15-20 acres of soursop, which poses a big challenge because of the increase in praedial larceny.
"I am now concentrating on cultivating soursop and pimento as well as goat rearing, but the main thing that is affecting me is praedial thieves," complained Champagnie. "It is so rampant now, they study you to see when you leave and then raid your farm."
He said the problem increases when persons chose to buy from these thieves because the price is 'right'.
Explains Champagnie: "A lot of persons come into the area, and when they find out that you are the legitimate farmer, they don't buy from you. Some of them buy from the praedial thieves because they are getting it at a way cheaper cost, because the thieves cannot afford to keep it long."
One would wonder how the animals co-exist with the soursop plants, but Champagnie has worked out the chemistry and is now reaping the results.
He explains that while the animals don't eat the soursop plant, they eat the fruit. This is because the plant has an asinine base. In addition, the manure from the animals is good for the plant.
Soursop or graviola is said to have great therapeutic value in the curing of cancer, and the ability to reduce high blood pressure as well as calm the nerves.
"We have realised the demand and the nutritional and medicinal value of the fruit, so we decided, about three months ago, to start manufacturing the juice," related Champagnie.
"We wanted to cut out the middle man because it makes no sense to wait two to three years for your crop to mature and bear fruit, and then a man just comes in for half hour, buys it from you and makes way more of it than you," Champagnie told The Gleaner.
However, he soon realised this dream is more difficult than he anticipated.
"I am having a challenge. Claudia Johnson and myself have begun processing the soursop fruit, but by the time it reaches the market, it sometimes spoils," he explains. "However, we are going to get the intervention of Derrick 'Black X' Robinson who said he has the capability of doing a little work at the Scientific Research Council to get it canned for us, and we'll see the end result," Champagnie added.
He hopes to have it in concentrated form for the hotel and restaurant market, who may want it in bulk and may not like the taste of the manufactured product.
"We have experimented with lime and ginger as a form of preservative, but we also checked the nutritional value of the preservatives to see what benefit it will bring to the juice," reported Champagnie. "So far, persons who have sampled it, love it. We just need to find a way to get it to the market without it being spoiled."
To date, Champagnie has employed three persons who help him with the manufacturing process, and he hopes the number will increase in the near future.