Business

New slaughterhouse promises big boost to pork production

BY MARK CUMMINGS Editor-at-Large, Western Bureau cummingsm@jamaicaobserver.com

Wednesday, September 05, 2012    

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SWEET RIVER, Westmoreland - THE $200-million state-of-the art abattoir now under construction at Sweet River, Westmoreland, is expected to be up and running next January.

It is expected to go a far way in reversing the decline in local pork production.

The new facility will have a capacity to process 250 pigs per day, with an expected output of about 4.6 million kilogrammes of pork per year, according to Valdence Gifford, managing director of Sweet River Ltd — the group of investors undertaking the 8,000 square feet abbatoir.

Agriculture ministry data showed pork production in Jamaica falling steadily from 9.1 million kg in 2008 to eight million kg in 2010.

"When fully operational it will employ a staff of about 50 and will require the offsprings of 3,500 sows annually in order to give up the number we want here for optimum production," Gifford told the Jamaica Observer, adding that the facility will produce the best quality pork.

Gifford boasts that the facility will be the most modern slaughterhouse in the English- speaking Caribbean.

"The plant will meet and surpass all local and international quality standards, thus allowing us to export pork beyond Caricom," he said.

The abattoir will also have an administrative office attached to it, along with stations for veterinary and public health personnel.

Gilfford explained that pigs ready for slaughtering will be tested on the farms to ascertain their health status, before they are taken to the abattoir for slaughtering.

"They will also be tested when they get to the abattoir before and after they are slaughtered," Gifford emphasised.

The bulk of the pork will be sold to GraceKennedy and Caribbean Producers Jamaica, while several other small processors as well as hotels will also be supplied.

"When our waste water completely treated it will require only chlorinating to be reused," added Gifford. "It will go through an anaerobic pond with a capacity over 50,000 gallons where it will spend days.

"From there it will go through several other stages before it goes through a sand filter where further sediments will be removed, then into a large tank."

He said the water will then be used for irrigation purposes, but the possibility exists that the water will be used in the day-to- day operations of the plant.

Sweet River has also set its sight at the possibility of going green.

"We are looking to be energy efficient so we are looking to go solar over the next two to three years and we will also be looking at bio-fuels," said Gifford.

Meanwhile, several farmers in and around Westmoreland are busy increasing their stock of sows to meet the expected demand for pigs when the Sweet River abattoir begins operation in January.

Among them, is Sweet River chairman Graham Henry Graham, who is expanding his farm at Little London in Westmoreland at a cost of $100 million.

A pig farmer since 1992, Graham wants to increase his present stock of sows on his 60-acre farm from roughly 135 to 600 over the next 12 months.

The expansion project, he said, consists of an additional 7,000 square feet building which includes three modules — farrowing, gestation and nursery.

Graham also plans to generate his own electricity on the property.

In the meantime, plans are also being finalised for the cultivation of roughly 400 acres of corn in Hanover and Westmoreland, which will be used in the manufacturing of feed for pigs.

And Clarke, in commending the Sweet River directors for the construction of the abattoir, noted that the opening of the facility will create between 800 and 1,000 jobs in the parishes of Hanover and Westmoreland.

"This is really an added investment that will benefit the constituency of Central Westmoreland in particular, which depends heavily on sugar cane cultivation. The added investment is good for employment creation and we are willing to work with the investors to make the investment worthwhile," said the agriculture and fisheries minister, who is also the member of Parliament for Central Westmoreland.

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