Saint Lucia’s Infrastructure, Ports, Energy and Labour Minister, Stephenson King, paid a visit to the Caribbean Grains Flour mill on Friday May 31st, 2019. He was accompanied by staff of the Ministry of Labour, including Permanent Secretary Dr. Ambrose and Legal Consultant Ms. Mangal. The ministry officials met with the country’s sole flour milling company, members of the Bakers’ Steering Committee and a representative from the Sir Arthur Lewis Community College; all of whom were participants in the recent bakers’ training sessions in Saint Lucia and Miami.
The contingency toured the milling plant led by Terrance Harry, Assistant to the Head Miller, as he explained the functions of the various machines and the varieties of flour produced. They had an opportunity to see first-hand, the machinery which separates, brushes and mills the wheat, before it is processed into flour which can be packaged, labelled and shipped.
According to the Director of Sales & Marketing at Caribbean Grains, Decosta Pierre, “We have upgraded the operations to ensure the product produced is the best quality, and as a result, the plant capacity continuously supersedes the orders placed and has to be shutdown at times. We have the ability to supply the local market, export and still work with the local baking industry on product development and baking techniques which will elevate their operations.”
The ministry officials also got the opportunity to tour the full baking facility installed in the building. The facility has two functions, one to test the quality of the flour produced and the other is to function as a bakers’ academy. The state of the art facility is equipped with a proofer, convection oven and other excellent baking tools. Local established bakers, novices and students have all benefited from baker training with the Chief Trainer Ali Medhad, accompanied by his young prodigy Kevin Landeau. For the company, as part of its Corporate Social Responsibility, it’s mission is to assist in adding value to the industry, starting with the basics and taking them to superior baking methods where one would not need to travel abroad to enjoy high-end goods. Thus helping to create added-value products, influencing positively the bottom line of the different players. The company is dedicated to raising the standards of the baking industry with continuous training at the facility and at the individual bakeries island-wide, as it continues to take the baking techniques from ordinary to extraordinary.
Member of the Bakers’ Steering Committee Cadasse-Walker stated, “One of the most critical issues for us at Cadasse bakery is a skilled labour force, and as a result, the opportunities here with Caribbean Grains has allowed us to start that process of upscaling our workers to produce the variety of quality bread you see here today. We want to change the perception of all of our customers who believe the local industry cannot supply the specialised bread varieties that they need and that is why they import, or set up their own bakery. The direction and vision of the Bakers’ Steering Committee is to empower the baking work force and we thank Caribbean Grains for partnering with us.”
According to Mr Bousquet of Glace Bakery, “We too share the same sentiments as after the first week of training we noticed the enthusiasm of the team and a marked change in the quality of our products. We are happy for the training provided by Caribbean Grains which has given us a boost to provide new products which our clientele have received with open arms.”
He went on further to state he is optimistic that he will be able to provide more variety with further training as evident in the display of assorted baked goods.
The Bakers’ Steering Committee is seeking to change the perception of the market as it relates to local bakers.
The local trainer based at Sir Arthur Lewis Community College, Chef Riad spoke on the development of the Centre of Excellence for Baking for the OECS, as they work assiduously to achieve this goal.
Chef Riad noted, “We have a mandate to develop our apprenticeship course and we are working to ensure this materialises. We are ready to take this on, but do need the extra support from key partners who will assist in bringing in a new generation of professional bakers from the region.”
On the recent trip to Miami at the Innovative Centre for Baking, Puratos the local bakers and trainers had an opportunity through Caribbean Grains to experience a world-class baking facility and gain training in the many new techniques to enrich their locally based training course.
Minister King applauded the bakers and Caribbean Grains team stating, “We are very pleased that we are doing this trip today, to at least see hands-on what you are doing at Caribbean Grains. I do understand fully some of the issues that you have raised in the industry and as the Minister for Labour, I look forward to continued dialogue to assist the baking industry and fix the deficit in the work force. A collaboration of the ministries of Education, Commerce and Labour, can address this situation to encourage more young persons to be part of the industry, and the noble profession of baking.”
The Bakers’ Steering Committee hope to formalise the association by the end of the year.