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Spice company doubles operations

Published:Friday | February 1, 2013 | 12:00 AM

Avia Collinder, Business Writer

Mohan Jagnarine, the chief executive officer of Spur Tree Spices Jamaica Limited, says it is costing the company J$15 million to retrofit new space in the Garmex complex where its factory will be relocated.

The move coincides with the company's programme to make it operations HACCP compliant.

The Garmex plant doubles the 5,000-square-foot leased factory on Wood Glen Drive in Kingston from which Spur Tree now operates.

New food-safety rules under the United States' Food Safety Modernisation Act (FSMA) has placed obligations on producers outside its borders who must either comply or lose access to the American market - which is a J$10-billion business for Jamaican food exporters.

Among local food exporters, 90 are said to be in various stages of certification, and last week Jamaica issued accreditation to the first food-testing lab to reach international standards, the Scientific Research Council.

"We have to be HACCP compliant under the new FSMA compliance rules. We export 80 per cent of products. We need the space and we need to be HACCP and FSMA compliant," Jagnarine told the Financial Gleaner.

Spur Tree managing partner Dennis Hawkins said, however, that the move was also driven by business growth.

"We are relocating so we can upgrade equipment and improve productivity. It's being driven by exports," he said.

Jagnarine said that the upgrade is costing the company J$15 million, with construction under way to prepare the 10,000 square feet leased from the Factories Corporation of Jamaica for 10 years.

He noted that the relocation was behind its initial December deadline, but that the space would be ready for use by the middle of February.

The CEO said that growth for Spur Tree was explosive in 2012, with 40 per cent improvement in sales and new markets added in North America.

"We have grown tremendously, about 40 per cent," said Jagnarine.

"We have put out some new products and we are in new markets in Canada and the US. We are already in the UK, we were in New York before, now we are expanding to other locations, including California in the US."

The company, which was started in 1996, produces at least 12 different sauces and spices that are sold primarily to the diaspora market.

Spur Tree produces "all in one" seasonings and sauces using fresh local ingredients, including Scotch bonnet pepper, thyme, scallion and pimento, as stated on its website.

Raw material for its jerk seasoning is sourced from small farmers in St Elizabeth, Clarendon, St Mary and other parishes.

Spur Tree started by supplying the food-service industry with catering-size packs of condiments, but the products have since taken off in the retail market.

business@gleanerjm.com