PETER MCCONNELL has a lot on his hands. With more than 2,500 acres of citrus plants and a vertically integrated company, there is much to do to ensure that the raw products end up as the top juice brand in Jamaica.
"Entrepreneurship is the key to the development of any country. Everyone is crying out for jobs, and they can't just come from the government, they have to come from the business community," said McConnell.
After getting a BSc in Soil and Crop Science at Texas A&M University, he joined the family business. When McConnell first joined, Trade Winds was just a farming operation with a fresh-fruit packing house. Over the last 24 years, the family has turned it into the company it is today.
McConnell credits their success over the years to finding and satisfying a need for "as good as home-made" juices in the Jamaican market. Consistently supplying the market with high-quality products, providing good customer service, and responding to consumer feedback and requests have ensured that they remain on top in their field.
Despite the success of its major brands, including Tru-Juice, Freshhh, and Wakefield, the company has been battling one major challenge over the years: the citrus greening disease. This has reduced citrus production by 40 per cent in the last three years; however, with the new technologies put in place to combat the disease, an increase of at least 20 per cent is expected for the next crop.McConnell holds the view that Jamaica has what it takes to significantly reduce its food import bill while increasing its exports. "There is no reason why we cannot feed ourselves at a First World standard," said McConnell, adding that wherever there are Jamaicans in the diaspora, they should be able to easily get locally manufactured products. "However, there are several challenges to be overcome in order to do this, energy costs being the primary obstacle. Jamaica's manufacturing sector cannot develop with the current energy costs, especially not when we have to compete against Trinidad which has significantly lower energy costs," McConnell pointed out. Another major one is education, with a shortage of properly trained individuals to work in the industry, which requires operating expensive machinery.