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Jamaica Producers hopes to keep link with new airline

Published:Friday | April 30, 2010 | 12:00 AM

Sheena Gayle, Gleaner Writer

Western Bureau:

While some persons may have a sentimental attachment to Air Jamaica, at least one company is losing a business relationship, which translated into a yearly multimillion-dollar cheque for the supply of in-flight snacks.

Jamaica Producers Group Limited, producer of St Mary's banana, plantain, breadfruit and cassava chips, had a vested interest with the airline, one that it hopes will continue with the new operator, Caribbean Airlines.

"We will reach out to Caribbean Airlines in hope that they will continue to do business with us," Rolf Simmonds, commercial director for Jamaica Producers Group Limited, told The Gleaner yesterday.

"Everything was on hold pending the sale, but now that the process is completed, we will approach them."

He said the company made close to $15 million each year, selling the airline snacks from the popular St Mary's line of products.

Nonetheless, an optimistic Simmonds noted that the company was resilient despite the challenging period, and has moved to strike partnerships with other airlines, hotels and even cruise ships, as it seeks to propel its brands.

Hurt by sale

At the same time, former Air Jamaica employee Marie Gillies said many people are hurt by the sale.

"To be honest, I served with pride as I worked with Air Jamaica because it was a part of us and our families. Not being there, I feel like I have lost part of me," Gillies noted.

She said both direct and indirect employment will be affected by the divestment of the national carrier today, as some of the partners included businesses which supplied stationery, amenities (such as water and food) and persons who transported bags to individuals whose luggage did not arrive with them on the flight.

Meanwhile, president of the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association, Wayne Cummings, expressed relief at the completion of the Air Jamaica sale.

"First to say, I am glad that there is a conclusion to the sale of Air Jamaica. We now know the future of the airline and who owns it," Cummings added.

"We are happy that Jamaicans are employed (by Caribbean Airlines) and that the profitable routes, which also serve the diaspora, will continue to be serviced."