Jamaica Broilers Group (JBG) has spent over $200 million — approximately US$1.5 million — on the rehabilitation and expansion of the Best Dressed Chicken hatchery in Cumberland, Portmore, in response to growing demand for table eggs and poultry.
The facility is one of two locations in St Catherine through which Best Dressed Chicken supplies baby chicks to poultry farmers throughout Jamaica. The other hatchery is located at White Marl.
"This investment has increased the capacity [of the hatchery] by 70 per cent," group president and CEO Christopher Levy shared during a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Wednesday, adding that it brings the "state-of-the-art" facility up to world-class standards.
The upgrade in the facility forms part of the company's investment in the local poultry sector, which comprises some 200,000 small farmers, most of whom are women depending on the activity for supplementary income, Levy pointed out. As such, he argued further that investing in the local industry provides the "first line" of protection for farmers against imported poultry.
While noting that the Best Dressed Division is responsible for operationalising the hatchery, the JBG CEO explained that the Hi-Pro brand also carries out sales and marketing support services through interaction with farmers including offering veterinary and lab-testing services free of cost. Moreover, he noted that the company has also invested in the capacity development of farmers, offering them training in book-keeping, cost analysis, setting up a business, and social interactions.
"So when you look at our market in terms of our small farmers, we have now positioned [Best Dressed Chicken] so that Minister [Pearnel Charles Jr] and the Ministry [of Agriculture and Fisheries] and the Government on a broader basis can have a greater confidence in the poultry sector to meet the demands, ups and downs, and those flexibilities," Levy remarked.
Planning for the rehabilitation and expansion of the Best Dressed Chicken hatchery began a year and half ago when the company realised that growth in the economy had fuelled increased demand for its products. Though Levy did not provide a measurement for the increase in demand, he told Jamaica Observer that "last year [had] the highest production of poultry meat and table eggs in this country."
Pointing out that "this is the first step of investment" in the poultry sector, he added that JBG will continue to make investments of approximately US$10 million in the overall operations, as it does each year.
"Well, I think we're at a point where we're going through systematically the expansion of the industry. So you start with your baby chicks, then your hatchery, then your farmer base expands and your plant expands," Levy outlined.
He continued: "So it's not everything in one year; it's over a multiple of years. So I think over the next two years we'll be expanding our processing plant significantly, again to keep up with the demand growth we're seeing in Jamaica and overseas. We're exporting a lot of chicken and it's exciting and growing and we have to keep pace with that."
At the same time, JBG will continue to build out its operation in the US where there is "tremendous opportunity", Levy told Caribbean Business Report.
Minister Charles Jr, who commented on the state of the poultry industry ahead of the ribbon-cutting ceremony, shared that as it continues to grow, providing jobs and feeding the Jamaican population, a lot of the work is taking place "behind the scenes".
He also said that JBG's upgrade of the Cumberland hatchery not only demonstrates its commitment to the industry but also underscores its commitment to the partnership with the Ministry of Agriculture and the Government's 'Grow Smart, Eat Smart' campaign.
"I see this expansion as a part of your response to the call for us to continue to innovate and introduce the type of technology that will push Jamaica forward," Charles Jr said.
He added that the ministry will ensure the continued support of the broiler industry through its partnership with the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA), which provides training to farmers. On this note, he highlighted the allocation of $50 million to bolster production in the poultry industry and said that the ministry will continue to ramp up its support.