Local 'bully' beef idea is still on the table — Wehby

BY KARENA BENNETT
Business reporter
bennettk@jamaicaobserver.com

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

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Group CEO of GraceKennedy Ltd Don Wehby has called for a revisit of Jamaica's cattle rearing agriculture programme on completion of a feasibility study by the local conglomerate for the manufacturing of tinned corned beef in Westmoreland.

“We have to be forward-thinking and consider the spin-offs that are possible from increased cattle stock and a more developed cattle industry. I think we should revisit this aspect of our agriculture programme in order to give ourselves more options for future opportunities,” Wehby stated in a release from the company.

Wehby's call follows on a challenge he made on the GraceKennedy's Innovation team in April to review the possibility of locally made corned beef in response to disruption in supplies caused by a ban by the Jamaican Government on imports of meat products from Brazil.

According to the company, recent feedback from the project team has shown promising signs.

“It is still early days yet, but prototypes have been developed and we are seeing that it is possible to manufacture a corned beef product at our meat factory in Westmoreland,” Wehby said.

While the project team has found that the capability exists within GraceKennedy and its supply chain to produce corned beef in Jamaica, it has highlighted major challenges such as the consistent supply of beef locally, as well as production costs.

The company reckons that it will take some time to arrive at a marketable product.

“The pricing structure is being looked at as well. We have to find the right balance to make it affordable to our consumers and with the same high-quality standards of all our products. There would be a problem with steady supply of beef, given current local stock,” Wehby added.

He added that although the cattle stock is not very extensive at this time, GraceKennedy will not simply “write off” the idea to manufacture beef products on a large scale. Nonetheless, growth in beef cattle rearing could help assure a supply of beef for a range product, Wehby noted.

The Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries in March placed a temporary ban on the importation of the product following reports from Brazilian authorities that several major meat processors in that country had been selling tainted beef and poultry. The companies were also alleged to have paid hefty bribes to auditors in exchange for fraudulent sanitary licences.

The prolonged ban threatened a trade row between the two countries as both sides took hard positions on the measure. The Brazilian Embassy had asked the Jamaican Government to lift what it described as a “unilateral ban”, pointing out that none of the 21 meat-processing companies was under investigation in Brazil for selling rotten beef and poultry export to Jamaica.

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