A pumpkin punch mix is set to become the newest addition to the Jamaica Harvest brand of agro-processed products, after the entry by the Fitzroy Anderson-led Anderson Food Processing was adjudged the winner in the inaugural Jamaica Harvest Specialty Food Challenge.
The announcement was made recently at the grand opening of the Jamaica Business Development Corporation’s (JBDC) new agro-processing incubator in Kingston.
The facility was developed as part of the Increasing the Export Capacity of Micro and Small Agro-Processors Using the Cluster Approach project sponsored by the European Union (EU), managed by the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), and implemented by the JBDC.
Speaking at the unveiling of the Incubator which spearheaded the Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW) celebrations at the JBDC under the theme, GEW DRIVE: Developing Rich Industry Value Chains for Export, Industry Minister Aubyn Hill, said the incubator “is a vital step aligning perfectly with our [JBDC’s] strategic goal to develop and strengthen the industry value chains for export.”
He described the move to implement the incubator as “a focused invention, deliberate action, and collaboration in agro-processing”.
The incubator will ultimately increase the ability of entrepreneurs to produce goods satisfying required standards for entry to desired markets while also strengthening and promoting Jamaican-made products.
Dr. Darran Newman, advisor to the vice-president of operations at the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) noted the impact of global events on the agricultural sector of the region.
“The pandemic and geo-political conflicts have exposed the vulnerabilities of our trade and food security and highlights the dangers of the Caribbean’s persistent dependence on tourism,” she said.
She continued that the launch of the agro-processing incubator “is a tangible example of how we are making headway towards meeting these challenges…and harness the power of technology and innovation to revolutionise how we process, package and market agriculture products.”
Valerie Viera, chief executive officer at the JBDC, said, “The incubator is a trigger. It’s an example of the beginning of an industry and we really hope that the message gets out even more that others will see it as an opportunity to establish more incubators and to expand the possibilities for MSMEs [micro, small and medium-sized enterprises] to participate in exports.”
The incubator has been developed at a time where the global demand for ‘Brand Jamaica’ is steadily growing.
According to the Statistical Institute of Jamaica (STATIN), Jamaica generated export earnings of just over US$1.9 billion, between January and December 2022. This represents a 28.4 per cent increase over the US$1.48 billion recorded for the corresponding period in 2021.
Aniceto Rodriquez Ruiz, head of cooperation within delegation of the European Union, remarked that he recognises the importance of the launch of this incubator, “as cluster members now have increased capacity to meet market access requirements for key export markets as well as to improve branding and marketing which will further increase the demand for these products”.
The Standby Facility is a €8.75 million resource managed by CDB, which offers opportunities to 15 Caribbean economies to grow trade, deepen integration and economic involvement; and impact competitiveness, market access, and exports by implementing targeted projects in thematic areas.
The cluster approach being utilised in project activities seeks to leverage relationships of those along the agriculture value chain and capitalise on opportunities in agriculture and agro-processing to the benefit of all involved. Beyond this, the project will also create much needed entry points for MSMEs involved in agro-processing.
With the support from the JBDC’s Agro-processing Incubator, all levels of the agriculture and manufacturing value chain are set to benefit from the export push. The facility will support the production of a range of agro-processed products such as beverages, sauces, condiments, dried spices, dried mixes and baked products.
Packaging is also available using liquid filler and powder filler. Production for the JBDC’s cluster brand, Jamaica Harvest will also be boosted.
The Jamaica Harvest Specialty Food Challenge sought to spur innovation within the industry by challenging project beneficiaries to innovate using pumpkin. The top three were selected based on a judging criteria which includes: product novelty/creativity/uniqueness; product taste/quality/aroma; visual appeal; effectiveness; and functionality.
The second place spot was awarded to Nella Stewart’s Chorlavi’s which produced a pumpkin patch gomashio, while third place went to Patricia Edwards’ Sweet Revenge which produced a pumpkin cake.