Rainforest Seafoods makes strategic shift to value-added products

BY KARENA BENNETT Business reporter bennettk@jamaicaobserver.com

Saturday, April 30, 2016

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Local seafood distributor Rainforest Seafoods is finalising regulatory requirements to begin exportation of cooked land crabs and lobster come July.

Cooked crab is another seafood market the distributor wants to get a toehold in after successfully starting the export of cooked lobster to Asian markets from its plant in Belize. The company has its eyes on new markets, such as Europe and Singapore for its cooked crab and lobsters, respectively.

Rainforest’s newest thrust is in expanding its manufacturing division into food processing and value-added products. The seafood distributor is focused on producing items that can be processed in Jamaica and can be increased in value from processing or local seasoning.

Last week, Rainforest commissioned its solar system at its Montego Bay plant, from which projected annual savings of roughly $2.6 million will aid in the construction of a processing plant in Montego Bay.

The new plant build-out — which is now in the negotiation stage — will cost the company an estimated US$10 million, according to Rainforest Manager Max Jardim. The 60,000-square-foot facility will be used to produce cooked crabs, lobsters, conch skewers with local vegetables, seafood soups, seafood burgers, pickled saltfish and fish nuggets, among other value-added products sold by the company.

"Total build-out could be as much as US$10 million. Construction is expected to last for 18 months and will start as soon as we have access to the land," Jardim told the Jamaica Observer. "We are now negotiating additional land in the Montego Bay area."

The planned construction is expected to double the production capacity to 120,000 pounds of value-added protein per day against Rainforest’s current Slipe Road production. The plant is expected to bring additional employment of 200 people, bringing total staff to 700.

Chief executive officer of Rainforest Seafoods, Brian Jardim, noted that the export of the live lobster programme from Jamaica, which was intended to start last July, has experienced some setback from industry requirements. As such, the company has been exporting cooked lobsters from its Belize plant.

"Our live programme has had several glitches through the regulations of the Vet Services which has caused its delay. Our plant in Belize has been up and running, and last year we had done about 100,000 pounds of cooked products," he stated.

Lobster exports to the Asian market are sold to wholesale seafood markets, and then resold to high-end Chinese restaurants that demand premium, fresh seafood.

The managing director told the Sunday Finance that the strategic vision of the company for the medium term is to increase its investment in the production value-added products. Already, the company has secured a partnership with Walkerswood for the production of its Solomon Gundy pickled fish.

"We have our eyes on exporting this value-added product to the Diaspora in Canada and the United States," Max Jardim stated. "And we have many more collaborations on the way."

The product will bear the Rainforest Ready brand. What’s more, the local seafood distribution giant has also secured Bermuda leads from the staging of recent Expo Jamaica.

"We will start containers of our entire range of value-added products. It’s heartening to know that Jamaicans overseas are asking about our products, and it is very clear that we are here to stay," he said.


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