West Best Foods reopens in Darliston
Farmers in Darliston, Westmoreland, will soon be able to find a ready market for their produce, following the recent reopening of the West Best Foods processing facility in the area.
Andrew Morales, chairman of West Best Foods, told the WESTERN STAR that the reopening, which took place in early December, will be a big boost for farmers in Darliston and surrounding areas.
"Officially, we are reopened. The farming community can look forward to that because Darliston is surrounded by a lot of farmlands, even as far as St Elizabeth," said Morales.
Darliston suffered a major financial setback following the closure of the processing plant in 2011.
The West Best Foods facility, which is located on five acres of land near the Darliston Square, used locally produced food in its manufacturing and was an active part of the agro-processing sector.
West Best Foods began canning ackees for export to overseas markets in 1991 and was one of six companies that were hazard analysis critical control points-certified to export ackees to the United States.
The company later expanded its production line to include several fruit juices, canned fruits and vegetables, and canned soups and ketchup. But up until a few weeks ago, there was no sign of activity on the facility's grounds, and its front gate was closed and securely padlocked.
Michael Lair, a resident of Darliston, recalled that in its heyday, West Best Foods employed people from the area for miles around.
"West Best Foods used to employ over 30 people in a 20-mile radius. It helped the community, but financial difficulties reached the owner, and so the facility scaled down until it closed down," said Lair.
John Markman, another resident, said that the facility "used to take people's ackees and send them off to foreign, and they used to take the tomatoes, too. It was helping the community".
Residents are now hopeful that the reopening of the facility will mark the dawn of a new day for the community.