Edmond Campbell, Senior Staff Reporter
THE MUCH-touted programme to supply local fruit juices to schools across the country is set to get back on track next month after an arrangement between the Ministry of Education and the supplier was almost derailed as a result of non-payment.
South West St Elizabeth Member of Parliament Richard Parchment told Parliament's Public Administration and Appropriations Committee yesterday that Jamaica Exotic Flavours was not paid for about six months last year after the company supplied juices to schools.
"The students are not getting the fruit juice that they are supposed to get. It has to be addressed as a matter of urgency," Parchment declared.
Tony Freckleton, managing director of Jamaica Exotic Flavours, told The Gleaner yesterday that his company had signed a contract with the Nutrition Products Limited (NPL) in early January 2012 to supply fruit juices to schools.
IMPACTED CASH FLOW
Freckleton said, however, that the failure of NPL to make payments for the products delivered had severely impacted his cash flow.
"I have to take care of my farmers at all times. I do not owe them a penny," he said.
Freckleton said he eventually received a part payment from the Ministry of Agriculture.
When contacted about the issue, Education Minister Ronald Thwaites said the arrangement between Jamaica Exotic Flavours and the ministry preceded his appointment as minister.
He explained that the sum owed to the company should have been paid by a special investment fund in the Ministry of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining.
Thwaites said Nutrition Products had advised him that the special fund would provide the money to the agriculture ministry which would make the payment.
"And there is an understanding between that fund and the Ministry of Agriculture that the balance will be paid and, therefore, on the strength of that, the ministry has advanced payments to Freckleton.
"Going forward, we at the Ministry of Education, through the new board at Nutrition Products, look forward to a direct and robust and principled relationship with Jamaica Exotic on the basis that we want to use more local material for the juices offered to schoolchildren and to stop importing these concentrates, sugar-and-water business from all over the world."