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Leap of faith into agri-business

In the September 16–22 issue, we investigated the concept of agro-processing. To recap, agro-processing refers to a subset of manufacturing that processes raw materials and intermediate products derived from the agricultural sector.

It can be simply defined as the processing of agricultural products creating a further by-product.

I wanted to narrow in a bit further and discuss the methodologies that can be utilised by entrepreneurs as it relates to the Trinidad and Tobago market. If you are already an entrepreneur in the food and beverage industry, or thinking about it, this article is for you.

The first steps to entrepreneurship involve the basic administrative duties such as the drafting of a solid business plan, registering your business and opening a business bank account.

For our agri-entrepreneurs, the journey begins with formulating your desired product. Examples of value-added products within the food and beverage industry includes callaloo packs, seasoning packs, cut up vegetables, sauces (pepper, pimento, garlic etc), natural juices, salad packs, pickled and dehydrated fruits and vegetables and many more.

The requirements in Trinidad and Tobago before you can start producing your product involves obtaining a food badge, acquiring a sanitary production space, and testing your product in laboratory conditions to ensure food safety standards are maintained.

If you do not have a sanitary space, there are many agencies, such as the PLANS Agroprocessing facility, which can help you with your processing. For product testing, labs within the Ministry of Health or the Caribbean Industrial Research Institute (CARIRI) can assist where they will conduct a series of microbial tests to ensure your product meets all quality assurance standards.

Once you are in production, ensure that the packaging for your value-added product meets all Chemistry, Food and Drugs Division standards.

The packaging must display the product’s manufacturing and expiration date, a barcode, ingredients, proper title, place of manufacture, contact information and nutritional content as needed.

Once your product is completed, ensure that you have proper storage for your product, which is usually refrigerated until the sale of the product. Consider even having a chilled vehicle to transport your product in, based on the nature of the product.

The markets available in Trinidad and Tobago in which you can sell your value-added products include grocery chains (Massy Stores, Tru Valu Supermarket etc), gourmet shops, marketplaces, restaurants, green market stalls and with further support, you can even supply the export market.

For financing options, the Agricultural Development Bank works with you through all steps and support is given by the Ministry of Agriculture, Land and Fisheries for the reaping of incentives. If you are thinking about starting your own agri-business, I hope this article encourages you to take the leap of faith.

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