Shanique Samuels, Gleaner Writer
Leopold Maye, a small cane farmer tucked away in the hills of North Clarendon, says he produces "organic sweetener".
According to Maye, "The Jamaica Organic Association has declared that there is yet to be found an organic sweetener in Jamaica." He told Rural Xpress that "they are talking foolishness. They are not doing their homework, they are not doing their research, they are not trying to find out anything". He says he has been processing organic wet sugar for over 10 years and is well known for it right across the length and breadth of the island.
He boasted that the sweetener he produces is all natural: "It is full hundred. We are ready for any test from anybody from anywhere," said a confident Maye as he loaded a few canes into the mill.
He says the sweetener is organic because the cane he plants is not fertilised - it grows naturally from the soil - neither is there any washing nor additives or preservatives added before, during, or after the processing of the wet sugar.
Maye plants cane over 12 acres of land and has his own cane mill directly connected to the boiling house. The cane he plants is reaped between seven and eight months old instead of the 12 months allotted for the 'regular' cane used for making sugar crystals.
He gladly took Rural Xpress on a tour while explaining the step-by-step processes of how he arrived at the final product - organic wet sugar.
The cane is loaded into the mill at one end and is pressed by a large wheel that rotates a full 360 degrees. The juice is strained and conveyed to the boiling house while the trash comes out at the other end. When the juice reaches the boiling house, it is strained again before it enters the first of three huge copper boiling pots on a low flame to "keep the juice warm".
When it is warm enough, it is transferred to the second pot, which is on a higher flame, where it is boiled. Boiling, Maye says, purifies the juice and causes any sediment in it to float so it can be strained.
The third pot sits on a much higher flame. The juice will boil for up to three hours or more until the once-dark liquid becomes a thick golden-yellow substance. It is strained yet again into the cooling container from where it is packaged warm.
Maye also manages to produce seven different varieties of wine from the cane juice he processes. He has also made vinegar and several other sugar cane by-products.
He says he hopes to expand soon but is daunted by extreme financial constraints.
"The demand is getting way above my reach now. If I can get a little ray of help to expand, this would now reach as far as Europe and Africa," he said hopefully.
He already has plans to convert the cane trash into organic fertiliser to be used on his farm.
He added that many Jamaicans didn't know where Jamaica was coming from and the treasure that Jamaica had and still has existing.