Manchester farmers to benefit from passion fruit project

MANDEVILLE, Manchester — Japheth Davis is one of 25 farmers here set to benefit from a passion fruit project being undertaken by the Jamaica Agricultural Society (JAS), the State of the African Diaspora (SOAD) and the Economic Community of the Sixth Region (ECO-6).

Davis, who hails from southern Manchester, said the benefits of the project are long term.

“I’m very thankful for what is being done here and this serves to show that we are looking at farming from a different perspective whereas a lot of us as farmers would only plant something that would last for just for a few months. The passion fruit project we are looking on here is a long-term investment to help generations to come,” he said.

The project — estimated to cost $30 million — which is expected to yield massive produce was launched last month in the Corporate Area and has since been expanded to include farmers in other parishes.

Jones Oliphant, president of the local board of branch societies at the JAS and councillor (People’s National Party) for the Mandeville Division, lauded the efforts of the stakeholders in expanding the project.

“The project we are launching is a means of economic growth for our members. [Passion fruit] can last for years, it doesn’t need any delicate treatment… It is a juice that is used in the beverage industry and also as a base. You will have passion and orange; passion and mango; passion and carrot; passion and beetroot.

“It can improve your health. It is strong in antioxidants. We have COVID around, so we have to strengthen our immune system. This fruit will help you to do that,” said Oliphant.

He said there are inequalities in agriculture and is hoping from economic growth to be reaped from the project.

“I believe that our farmers should be rich, and our farmers should take on practices that should help us to make money. It is unfortunate that some of our agriculture produce in the field we can hardly get $20 per pound for, but the merchant gets $200 per pound of the same product,” he said.

Twenty-five farmers from five communities — Cedar Grove, Waltham, Newport, Patrick Town and Grey Ground — received 20 seedlings each following the launch of the project at the Ridgemont United Church Hall in Mandeville, recently.

The passion fruit is said to be selling for $300 to $500 per dozen, according to agriculturists.

“We are going to seek ways and means where we can develop a passion juice industry, irrespective of the price being offered, I would like to see us as an association processing our juice for local and international markets,” said Oliphant.

Jannett Pullen, projects, marketing and training manager at JAS, said the aim is to give the farmers an opportunity to grow the industry locally.

“The juice industry imports over a billion dollars in extracts [annually]… The passion fruit doesn’t really die, you can have it for 30 years”.

“The project is not only to give you [farmers] the plant, because we will be ensuring that there is a market for the fruit that is produced. There is a processing plant in St Catherine that we are looking to see how best we can acquire to produce our own juice,” she said.

“We are hoping that at least 60 per cent of [farmers] production will come back in the fold and establish within the juice industry, so that we can maintain that,” she added.


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