Today I am writing about some of the businesses on St Helena who worked towards achieving high standards of food safety in their operations.
This was all done with the support and help of Sue White, from deepest Dorset, who travelled over here twice in 2014 and 2015. Over 200 people passed food safety qualifications of some sort and many changed the way they work in order to make sure their food and premises achieve international standards of hygiene.
When Sue returned to the UK, she put pen to paper, or whatever the modern equivalent is, and wrote a book!
Her book which is called, from little acorns… and is available on Amazon. It follows the story of a number of Saint Businesses who worked with her in the food safety field. Each chapter gives the story of how one business started up and operates over here and is well worth a read.
The book arrived here a few weeks ago and my role was to make sure that each business received at least one of Sue’s books. The motive here from my part was to record the event so that Sue could see her books made it back to the island and also to celebrate these folk who are mostly running these businesses off their own money
St Helena is not the most conducive place on earth to start a business. There are some big advantages such as no VAT and no business rates but on the other side of the coin there is the lack of raw materials as most things have to be imported, expensive slow broadband, expensive electricity and a small local marketplace.
The people featured in Sue’s book have to plan any purchasing around 10 weeks before they need to use items, they have to deal with items not arriving when ordered or being stopped by customs here or in South Africa because the paperwork isn’t correct.
Roddy is the only island’s commercial egg producer and has been in business for around 5 years. Roddy, had a situation around a year ago when he couldn’t get any new chickens to replace his egg laying stock. This was because they had to come from abroad and because of a number of problems regarding regulations Roddy didn’t get his chickens. This meant, his income dropped like a stone and the island ran out of eggs.
Roddy now has more chickens than ever and is raising some of his own stock although fresh stock still has to come from overseas every year or so. He has moved into new premises recently although is still waiting for a water supply to be fitted in one area. Roddy has no apprentice to assist as few youngsters want this kind of work (sounds familiar) and so hasn’t had a holiday for years, he works 7 days a week. It’s a good job that he loves what he does, in spite of some of the setbacks.
Paul and Sally Hickling are well known to all on St Helena and a few folk across the globe, including many of the Navy crews who stop here for a couple of days R&R. The reason being is that Sally and Paul own the islands and in their words, “the world’s most remote distillery”.
Always up for a challenge they have gone from making one or two products to a line which now includes limoncello, a coffee liqueur and wine.
Their products sell well and have recently created and sold a brandy to commemorate the 200th anniversary of Napoleon’s time here on St Helena.
Heading down to Rupert’s Bay to visit what was the Argos factory, one is struck by the immense changes going on down this way. Rupert’s is to be the new Cargo terminal and so is having new roads, wharf and other infrastructures built. The poor residents of the area have been subjected to this activity for over two years. Tucked away in a corner is the fish processing plant for the island and as mentioned it was run by a company called Argos until recently. Melvin Obey has worked down here for years and has seen many changes over that period. On the day we visited to give Melvin and his team the book, there had been a good catch of Wahoo brought in as you can see from the picture. Also this month we have been seeing skipjack and yellowfin tuna, all at prices around a fifth of what you would pay in the UK.
Ann’s place in the castle gardens is an open air eatery which has been running for years and at the moment is under the patronage of Jane Sim and her family. Jane does the majority of the work and also looks after her family. This means that she is another one who regularly works 7 days a week. Ann’s place has always been popular with yacht crews when they come past on their way to South America. Some have donated flags over the years which adorn the ceilings as you can see in my picture. Janes menu has plenty of local fish on it as her husband is a fisherman.
Gregory Cairns Wicks and Anita Magellan run the successful Queen Mary Store which sells everything from Cream Cheese to Roofing! When I was running 2onmain, Gregory and his team were some of the most helpful suppliers we used. Nothing was too much trouble, including telling us what was coming in from Cape Town on the ship before if arrived so we could do our menus in advance. Gregory has made sure that his food team are all trained in food safety and has embraced the principles which go to make what is known in the trade as "safer food better business". This means that customers can be sure that the food they are buying is fit for consumption because it has been stored at correct temperatures and handled with a minimum of risk by trained staff.
In fact all the businesses which have been mentioned in this blog are managing their businesses with these principles in place. When you consider that most food here is imported and the average temperature in Jamestown is above 20 degrees Centigrade, there is every reason to make sure that risks are minimised.
Next week I should be visiting a few more of the businesses and will post a blog and of course the pictures!