Abaco Neem a growingsuccess story
The Neem plant is not the only thing growing in Abaco, as a small business focused on organic farming has been turning the plant into profits, with an average 20 percent growth rate over the last five years, even through the recent economic downturn.
Abaco Neem Limited produces a range of products from the Neem plant, including product lines for body and beauty, alternative medicine, pets, and agricultural use. The company’s founder Nick Miaoulis started growing the plants in Abaco about 18 years ago, and the company’s products have been on the market for about 10 years.
“This tree is actually native to India,”Daphne De Gregory, sales and marketing manger and a parter in the business said.”Its the oldest tree used in ayurvedic medicine, which means to cause the body no harm.”She said that in India, the plant is regulated under the equivalent of U.S. Federal Drug Administration ratings.
The plant, referred to as the”Village Pharmacy”, is reputed to be capable of remedying a host of ailments, according to De Gregory.”The beauty of Neem is that it causes no harm and its multipurpose, so you can use one product for treating many different things,”she said. According to her the plant’s properties make it anti-bacterial, anti-viral, anti-fungal, antiseptic, and anti-inflammatory.
The company currently has just under 100 acres cultivated, though it holds leases for some 200 acres, according to De Gregory. The majority of the cultivated land is used for 6500 Neem trees, but the company is also ramping up its production of many of the other plants it uses in the production of its various products.
“We’re preparing for the future by growing the ingredients that we eventually will need to supply ourselves”the sales and marketing manager said.”Like aloe that goes into all of our body lotions and creams, coconut oil, and citronella which goes into our bug repellents.”She added that the world is overconsuming and that her company anticipated greater demand and shrinking supply for the essential oils, which it is currently importing.
De Gregory also said there are other plants with similar medicinal properties to the Neem plant, which it has began cultivation of for future production.
Abaco Neem is located at Airport Circle, Marsh Harbor, and its farm is about 13 miles south of there. It employs five full-time employees, and during its three to four month harvest season up to an additional 15 part-time pickers are utilized per day.
“Our farm is the only certified organic farm in the country,”De Gregory said. She added that Quality Certification Services out of Gainesville, Florida, performs an annual examination of the firm’s records and the farm itself to ensure the company maintains the organic standard.
The company’s most popular line is its medicinal products. De Gregory said the best seller is the Neem leaf capsule, which is purported to support the immune system, thereby helping the body to fight off infection. She said the Neem leaf extract was the next most popular item and she called it a”first response product”for topical and internal treatments. De Gregory added that the Neem salve was also popular among sufferers of arthritis and inflammation joint pain.
The company ships by mail order and through its website, www.abaconeem.com. De Gregory reports shipments to the United States, Canada, England, and most recently even to Norway. The business currently distributes their products on six different Bahamian islands, including Eleuthera, Exuma, Great Abaco Island, Grand Bahama, and New Providence, and she added that careful management of distribution partners was a part of the company’s success.
De Gregory said that the company had its share of hurdles, including Mother Nature sometimes, bureaucracy and the costs associated with doing business. One”big disappointment”has been local hotels and resorts, she said. According to her they only pay lip service to the concept of supporting Bahamian producers, and with the government concessions resorts enjoy it was difficult to compete with the competitiveproducts that they import.