Passengers on private jets want natural foods
Barrington Flemmings, Gleaner Writer
Western Bureau:There is money to be made in organic products and Jamaica is missing a golden opportunity.
Daniel Schweizer, executive chef at Goddard Catering, Montego Bay, is calling on the Government and farmers to invest in organic farming as a means of eking out a niche in the lucrative private airline industry.
Schweizer, who was speaking during The Gleaner's Food Editors' Forum at Mystic India Restaurant in Montego Bay, St James, last Thursday, said the number of food and beverage managers of private airline asking for organic foods has been on the increase, but Jamaica has not been responding to the requests as it is not empowered to do so.
"The private airlines are asking for organic foods, but we do not have that to supply the demand," said Schweizer.
"I have also been seeking to convince them to accept and introduce local fruits on their menus, like melon, cantaloupe, pineapples and so forth, as it would be cheaper for them than seeking to get the imported fruit, like strawberries and raspberries, which attract premium prices," added Schweizer.
He said the Government and the farmers should move quickly to capture the market and to see how best to maximise earnings.
"What we are finding, too, is that the airlines are gradually moving back to offering economy class meals on the aircraft, so another opportunity is presented where more local foods can be used. So aircraft travelling to destinations like New York, cities in Europe and Canada present that opportunity."
Schweizer said Caribbean Airlines is getting ready to offer meals again, and this would be an opportunity for Jamaica to capitalise on.
Integral Part of Framework
In the meantime, president of the Jamaica Agricultural Society (JAS), Norman Grant, said organic farming is an integral part of the framework for boosting earnings from the agriculture sector.
According to Grant, the JAS and Ministry of Agriculture are ready to forge the necessary synergies with the Jamaica Organic Agriculture Movement (JOAM) to boost the industry.
"The JAS and the Ministry of Agriculture are willing to sit down with organic farmers to make a principal focus on this area once there is a market for the product. We are forging a memorandum of understanding with JOAM, as we want to engage them and to promote this in a very big way," said Grant.
He indicated that the JAS would be seeking how to liaise with the various industries to see how to maximise the benefits to be derived from the sector.
"Some years ago, $20 million was committed by the Government towards organic farming, so I believe we need to revisit that now and to focus more energies in this area as it is rapidly growing market, which can really boost agricultural earnings," argued Grant.
He said already coffee and some domestic crops, including vegetables, are being grown organically, and efforts would be intensified to put more crops into production as the need arises.