Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Hon. Roger Clarke, has lauded Jamaica Beverages Limited (JBL) for the purchase of the Jamaica Citrus Growers Limited’s Bog Walk plant, noting that this acquisition will undoubtedly prove beneficial to the island’s citrus industry. “This acquisition was done in the interest of all concerned…this is a new relationship that is going to exist between the citrus growers and this new company. I am confident that we will reap success in this new venture,” he stated. He was speaking at the official announcement of the acquisition on Wednesday, February 6, at the Terra Nova Hotel in St. Andrew. Getting Back to Top Production Highlighting the many challenges the citrus industry has faced over the years, Mr. Clarke said a collaborative approach by stakeholders has been critical in ensuring the survival of the industry. “The citrus tristeza virus did cause some serious problems and then, beginning in 2007/08, we had the citrus greening (disease). However, with the help of the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization), we are at this point in time trying to find a way to deal with that problem,” he said. He noted that getting back to top production is vital, informing that output has declined from four million boxes in 1999/2000 to less than three million boxes, currently. “To get back into production, we need seedlings and therefore, it is opportune that Jamaica Beverages Limited is contributing US$100,000 towards the establishment of (a) nursery. We want them to work in close collaboration with our research facilities at Bodles but time is of the essence and I am going to try my best to ensure that it doesn’t languish,” he pledged. In addition to the nursery, a greenhouse will be constructed to grow citrus seedlings, which will be sold to members of the Citrus Growers’ Association at a subsidized rate. Bog Walk to Benefit For his part, Acting General Manager at JBL, Paul Shoucair, explained that under the acquisition, the company will pay royalty to Jamaica Citrus Growers Limited for use of the Juciful brand, which it still owns. “We are even more excited about the fact that our investment in the Bog Walk plant will positively impact the livelihood of 7,000 citrus farmers directly and thousands more indirectly, and that our acquisition of the plant saved the 2012 citrus crop, which would have otherwise seen tonnes of oranges and grapefruits rotting in the fields,” he explained. He said the JBL took over the management of operations of the Bog Walk plant in May last year, while due diligence was still taking place, as a show of commitment to the investment plan. “The final arrangement was completed in December 2012 with a total investment of $1 billion over the first year, inclusive of the purchase of property, as well as the cost of upgrading equipment at the plant and overall renovation of the facilities,” he said. Mr. Shoucair said since the acquisition, JBL has rebuilt all the filling machines and juice extractors, and has increased its staff complement by approximately 30 per cent. Plans for the Future “Our aim is to supply the local market through island-wide distribution, after which, we shall be looking at exporting concentrate throughout the Caribbean and the United Kingdom. In the medium-term, we plan to be an earner of foreign exchange. This, in addition to being the sole and exclusive supplier of 100 per cent grapefruit juice to the manufacturers of the Ting brand which, as you know, boasts 100 per cent Jamaican grapefruit,” he said. The Bog Walk plant is located on seven acres of land, with an additional seven acres, which can be used for future expansion. JBL has been in operation since June 1998 and is a subsidiary of S.M. Jaleel & Company Limited (SMJ), one of the largest manufacturers of non-alcoholic drinks in the English-speaking Caribbean. JBL’s products include a range of carbonated soft drinks, exotic fruit juices, purified and flavoured water, energy drinks and other flavoured beverages, including Fruta, Busta and Chubby.