As early as next month, locally processed turmeric will be available in supermarkets across the country, as the National Agricultural Research and Extension Institute (NAREI) on Sunday commissioned its $18M turmeric factory at Hosororo, Region One.
With the turmeric factory, the country will finally be able to process turmeric on a commercial basis, saving close to US$400,000 that is currently being spent annually on importation. The factory will see NAREI purchasing raw turmeric from farmers and processing it before selling it to the local market.
Once the institute would have fully satisfied the local market, it will be looking to export the processed turmeric by 2019. Currently, there are 50 acres of turmeric being cultivated by 30 farmers in Region One, but the acreage will have to be increased by 150 to satisfy the local demand.
In attendance at the commissioning were President David Granger; Minister of Agriculture, Noel Holder; Minister of Indigenous People, Sydney Allicock; Region One Chairman, Brentnol Ashley and NAREI’s head, Dr. Oudho Homenauth.
Dr. Homenauth, in his address, told the gathering that the turmeric factory is one of the transformative projects that his agency is undertaking. “It means all the money will remain here for the development of the people in this region and the region in general.”
The facility has the capacity to process one tonne of turmeric every three to four days—this includes boiling and drying. However, Dr. Homenauth said that NAREI will be looking to hasten the process. To do this, he told President Granger that there will have to be a solar facility in place as early as January. This will see the factory working continuously, processing one tonne of turmeric every two days. Currently, the factory is being operated on diesel and wood.
Dr. Homenauth recalled when the entity first embarked on turmeric cultivation in the region.
“We started with a few kilogram of planting materials. It was difficult to import, because you don’t get these materials easily, but with dedication by the relevant staff of the institute, we were able to increase the planting material.”
Dr. Homenauth recounted that the materials were then donated to the farmers with the support of the Ministry of Agriculture through its capital programme, and within a few years, NAREI was able to “pump up” the planting materials.
According to NAREI’s boss, when the turmeric programme started, he and the staffers wanted to ensure they were on the right track and as such, samples of the dried and polished turmeric were tested both locally and internationally.
“We were very happy when the result came back; even the large companies that imported turmeric said the flavour, texture and colour matched those that were imported, and that was one of the reasons why we continued.”
But while NAREI went ahead with the turmeric programme, Dr. Homenauth said that farmers were not too happy with the way the processing was done and as such, the processing facility was acquired to make things a little easy and faster.
“The traditional method was used, where you had to boil the raw turmeric that you harvest then you sundried it, and this usually takes three days or more days. You must have continuous sun, and if there is an issue with the weather then you will have problems,” Dr. Homenauth explained.
Meanwhile, Regional Chairman Brentnol Ashley said that agriculture is very important to the development of the region. He complemented NAREI for distributing turmeric to the farmers, enabling them to expand the village’s economy.
“They (NAREI) purchased the turmeric from farmers and then redistributed it to other farmers who may not have been able to purchase their own turmeric to begin their turmeric farming,” Ashley told the gathering. He said back in 2015, the village was concerned as to when the turmeric factory would become operationalised.
“We had several discussions with the engineer and Dr. Homenauth on the importance of this processing plant which will also provide employment.”
Ashley urged the staffers who will be working at the facility to take care of it and ensure that it is operational at all times, as he is hoping that the region could return to being the breadbasket of the country.