JSIF provided $23. 2 million of the project cost, with the community contributing $4.6 million through its agricultural cooperative society.
The facility was handed over to the Bethel Town Cooperative by the Jamaica Social Investment Fund (JSIF) at a ceremony that was attended by Tourism Minister Dr Wykeham McNeil and Member of Parliament for the Eastern Westmoreland constituency, Minister of State, Luther Buchannan..
The 204-square metre plant will process sorrel to make juices, jams, jellies in addition to other value-added products, while significantly reducing the need for further imports for the Jamaican market.
It boasts a juice processing area, office, storerooms, and drying area. It is equipped with bag juice fill and seal machines, mixing/ blending tanks, a sanitary centrifugal pump and other industrial equipment, and office equipment.
The project’s 88 direct beneficiaries include 77 farmers of sorrel, ginger and pimento, and 11 factory workers. Once production begins, the agro-processing space is expected to increase employment opportunities for residents.
Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller, in a speech read by Minister Kellier, said the Government was taking a holistic approach to rural development as part of the effort to reduce poverty. She noted that the setting up of the sorrel factory, which will benefit rural communities, is important in this regard.
The Prime Minister commended the country’s farmers, whom, she said, continue to show resilience, fortitude and strength, despite the challenges of drought and storms. “The Jamaican farmers have suffered one of the worst droughts on record, but have refused to roll over and give up,” she stated.
Over the 18-month construction phase of the sorrel plant, the staff also underwent training from JSIF in good manufacturing practices (GMP), fire safety, facility management and maintenance, public health and food safety, equipment usage and processing.
In addition to sorrel processing, the facility will also offer marketing support through the production of business cards, brochures, flyers and banners, as well as label development and packaging services.
Managing Director of JSIF, Scarlette Gillings said for the first four months of operation the factory will operate at 60 thousand units per month, but will increase to 180 thousand. Gillings said the factory was conceptualised as a consistent market for farmers in Bethel Town and surrounding communities.
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