GraceKennedy showcases its work to the diaspora
GraceKennedy Group CEO Senator Don Wehby last Thursday spoke to scores of Jamaicans at the GraceKennedy and Western Union Caribbean Town Hall Series in New York. The following are excerpts from his presentation.
Hailing Diaspora Support
Special thanks for your love of Jamaica and your continued support. Your remittances help your families, help your friends, and help Jamaica to reach
their own individual goals - increased income, better health and nutrition, educational opportunities, improved housing and infrastructure, and entrepreneurship opportunities.
I would like to spend some time speaking about our corporate social responsibility.
We strongly believe that "what is good for Jamaica is also good for GraceKennedy".
Investment in agriculture sector
GraceKennedy (GK) continues to invest in agriculture because we believe that we can achieve growth in Jamaica by growing the agricultural sector. Jamaica needs to be self-sustainable and less reliant on outside support. We have to put our arable land to use for it to happen.
You will recall two years ago the farming project in Hounslow when we were importing pepper from Costa Rica, and now, we are exporting pepper mash all over the world - St Lucia, Barbados, USA, Sweden, and the UK. We have expanded Hounslow - a 300-acre mother farm.
GAP (Grace Agricultural Producers) has recently leased 111 acres, near the Hounslow plant, and will create, with the support of the Ministry of Agriculture, the Hounslow Agro Park. Grace Agricultural Producers assists the farmers in obtaining financing for the inputs, provides technical support, and very importantly, provides a guaranteed market to the farmers for their perishable produce.
Innovation and entrepreneurship
The policy of GK is that once we can produce a product in Jamaica, whether using GraceKennedy factories or those of other manufacturers in Jamaica on a competitive and sustainable basis, we will not import from any other country in the world.
We have five manufacturing plants, to be increased to six this year with the addition of a new factory in Denbigh. At the new factory, we are going to produce, initially, frozen sweet potatoes, frozen ackees, canned ackees and canned callaloo. Once that is up and running well, we will be looking into producing frozen and/or canned yam and, possibly, green plantain.
Support for education
Jamaica is having challenges in terms of crime, slow economic growth, and in some cases, poor infrastructure. But education is part of the solution for a better Jamaica. As Nelson Mandela said, "Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world."
We give strong support to education. Grace & Staff Community Development Foundation, started in 1979, thirty-nine years ago. Currently, we are sending 500 children to school, and this is to expand to 1,000 by 2022.
We have several homework centres. They are at Parade Gardens, Tower Street, Majesty Gardens, Dela Vega City, Barbican, Quarry Hill, and in Savanna-la-Mar. We are currently looking at forming alliances with centres in MoBay and Clarendon.
Currently, 700 students are part of these programmes. GK staff, past students of the centre, and corporate volunteers teach at the centres. We have computerided all the location with computer labs.
We have a STEM Centre (science technology engineering, and mathematics centre), which is also located in downtown Kingston.
We formed a partnership with the Bob Marley Foundation, which has resulted in The Marley Music Room in Parade Gardens so that the immense talents of our inner-city children can be fostered and unleashed.
GraceKennedy Jamaican Birthright Programme - reconnecting with Jamaicans living overseas. Second- and third-generation persons come home for the summer to learn and experience the Jamaican culture while doing internships in companies within the Group.
Investment in sports
We consider our involvement in sports as an investment in our schools, youth, and in our country Jamaica. The return on investment may not be evident immediately, but the return will be there for our country and GraceKennedy in the medium to long term.
Champs: GK sponsored for the last 10 years and recently renewed for an additional seven years. We spend about US$1 million every year on the championships.
As a country, we need to invest more in sports, where we have a natural talent. We are hoping to produce more Usain Bolts, Shelly-Ann Fraser Pryces, Asafa Powells, Alia Atkinsons, and many more.