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Jamaican Pig Farmers to Benefit from CPJ-led Export Thrust

09 July 2013

JAMAICA - There is a wave of excitement in the Jamaican pig farming industry as Caribbean Producers Jamaica Ltd, (CPJ) has identified several markets for commercial export of Jamaican pork.

According to Jamaica Observer, hundreds of pig farmers stand to benefit from the export thrust, as CPJ targets markets in St Maarten, St Lucia, Antigua & Barbuda, the Bahamas, the Cayman Islands, the Turks and Caicos Islands, Aruba, and Curacao.

To drive the exports, CPJ has joined forces with Sweet River Abattoir, which is one of the leading slaughterhouses in Jamaica, handling pigs supplied by almost 400 farmers from across the island.

Sweet River is now in an advanced stage of building a new US$3-million abattoir in Westmoreland and the farmers are also investing approximately US$3-million in their growing operations to take advantage of the export opportunities. These investments feed directly into CPJ's US$5-million, state-of-the-art meat processing plant at its Montego Bay headquarters.

Sweet River's managing director, Valdence Gifford, a veteran in the local pork industry, said that his company, which currently operates at another facility, is looking forward to the completion and full commissioning of the new abattoir in Westmoreland. "When we move operations to our new home, we anticipate that we will more than double our production. We have been partnering with approximately 400 pig farmers from ten parishes, but there is potential to expand to almost 1,000 pig farmers when the new plant is opened and operating at capacity," Mr Gifford said.

It is against this background that Mr Gifford is convinced that the export initiative has come at an opportune time.

"Let's face it, we cannot consume all the pork we produce in Jamaica and for the industry to remain viable and grow, moving aggressively into the export market is essential. Our new plant, when complete will gain international quality certification such as Hazard Analysis and Critical Points (HACCP), Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) and International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO), and additionally the farmers we purchase pigs from will have to be certified by the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA). We are positioning ourselves to deliver the best quality pork products, both locally and overseas," he said.

When completed, Valdence Gifford expects his Sweet River Abattoir to directly employ 50 people, but it is the indirect employment possibilities which are enormous. "We are projecting that with the increased numbers of farmers selling us pigs to be slaughtered, there will be a huge spin-off effect, both in terms of the numbers of people employed and the earnings of pig farmers," he added.

Mr Gifford said that the per capita consumption of pork in Jamaica is 3.3 kilogrammes annually, well below that of countries such as Canada, the United States and Cuba where the annual per capita consumption stands at 24, 28 and 45 kilogrammes respectively. He notes that with such a relatively low local consumption, tapping into exports is a prudent option.

"The pig farmers along with Sweet River are 100 per cent convinced that if we can find the export markets, that we can supply them without any problems. There is full commitment among the local pig farming community to ensure that this export thrust works. We also need a strong and sustained marketing campaign to promote increased pork consumption in Jamaica," stated Mr Gifford.

One of those pig farmers who is optimistic about the future growth of the export initiative is Henry Graham, who operates over 100,000 square feet of pig pens at his Top Gate Farms in Little London, Westmoreland.

"My team has invested heavily in the growing of pigs over the years and this is the first in a long time that there is such genuine optimism about the future. The export drive means there is an outlet for our products when we have exhausted the local demand. As farmers, this will help to protect our investments, as well as earn valuable foreign exchange for the country. It is a win-win-win situation, for CPJ, Sweet River Abattoir and the farmers," Mr Graham said.

The experienced farmer, who is treasurer of the Jamaica Pig Farmers' Association said that the general consensus in the industry is that opening of export markets will take the farming operations to the next level.

"Farmers are already seeking ways to produce more efficiently, through the research of new types of feeds and ways in which we grow the animals. The investment into a new abattoir at Sweet River in Westmoreland is also a huge boost for us because this means we can increase our production," noted Mr Graham.

He said that other leading pig farmers such as Neville Grant in Hanover, Nathan Maylor in Burnt Savannah in Westmoreland, Menzie Black in Old Hope, Westmoreland, and Cynthia Douglas in Kellits, Clarendon are all on board in the efforts to export Jamaican pork.

That view is also shared by Angella Bardowell, president of the Jamaica Pig Farmers' Association.

"The Association welcomes any company that ventures into any export initiative for Jamaican pork. This is the only way that the industry is going to grow, produce more jobs, and help us to earn valuable foreign exchange for the country in a difficult economic environment," stated Bardowell.

She noted that the local industry is strong and robust as there are over 3,000 pig farmers in Jamaica, with an estimated 1,000 as members of the Association.

"There is no doubt that we have the human capital, technology and expertise to satisfy the processors who are interested in going the export route. The more we export, the more positive the impact on the livelihoods of pig farmers and their families across Jamaica," she added.

CPJ's Executive Chairman Mark Hart and Chief Executive Officer Tom Tyler also expect a hugely positive impact on pig farming communities, because of the opening of export markets for Jamaican pork products.

"We are talking about new opportunities for families across the length and breadth of Jamaica, because every time we add an export market, another grower has an outlet for his pigs and will enjoy the economic benefits which come with that," Mr Tyler said.

Mr Tyler noted that the commercial export of pork products will provide an avenue to absorb the excess pork butts and loins in the Jamaican market.

"Through our new state-of-the-art plant, we are able not only to export these cuts, but also to find alternative ways to use them to make other products which can do well in Jamaica and overseas," he said.

Mark Hart is projecting that CPJ will export up to ten containers of meat products, including pork, for the remainder of 2013, and two containers a month in the medium term, starting next year.

"With our brand new meat processing plant, Sweet River Abattoir coming on board and the support of the farmers, the growth potential in the export market is healthy, and we look forward to improvements going forward," Mr Hart said.

The company's meat processing plant operates at international standards with a distinct focus on quality assurance, research and development.

"We are constantly exploring ways to introduce new products and we will be able to make full use of the pork supplied to us by the Sweet River Abattoir. The plant will respond to the needs of the export thrust. We have the team, the technology and the expertise to make it happen," Mr Hart said.

CPJ was founded in 1994 and has been listed on the Junior Market of the Jamaica Stock Exchange (JSE) since 20 July 2011. The company is one of Jamaica's leading food-service distributors and its drive to export Jamaican pork commercially is one of its latest initiatives.

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