CPJ pushes expansion across Caribbean operations
A view of CPJ Market located at 71 Lady Musgrave Road inKingston

Caribbean Producers Jamaica (CPJ) is going in expansion mode across its businesses in the Caribbean. This, as the company seeks to strengthen revenues and rebound from the fallout caused by the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The food and wine distributor which runs its business across other areas including wholesale and distribution along with the manufacture and distribution of fresh juices and meats currently operates in Jamaica and St Lucia.

Co-chairman of the business Thomas Tyler in noting the company's recent upgrade of critical information technology (IT) systems and implemented during its downtime period, said that the efficiencies created from these upgrades will significantly help to push the company's growth prospects.

“We have an acquisition in Jamaica that we are toying with…I don't think we can speak too much on it but we found something that could be a great fit for CPJ and we are exploring that possibility right now,” Tyler disclosed at the Mayberry Forum held last Wednesday.

He also said that a small 1200 square feet store owned by the company since the last 14 years is currently undergoing expansion and is now being upgraded to a 6000 square feet store, as the company moves to increase sales. “I think this project will be done by November/December this year. It's going to be what we call a chef's market store, so we'll be able to expand our products to the small restaurants, villas etc. on the north coast wanting to buy small pieces of our products. This will also help with our B.C sales— one of our IT projects in the works,” he stated.

As for its St Lucian operation, Tyler said the business has been working to build out its grocery store business in that market. This, it is seeking to do with the addition of new locations following the opening of its first store last year.

“We currently have two more locations that have been confirmed, one that we'll get this year which will be about 9000 square feet in the centre of Castries. We're working on breaking ground on that one which hopefully will be done in the next six-nine months. We [also] have another opportunity in the north of St Lucia which is a building that is a public-private partnership which is being developed and we have put our name down for that space, which is 19,000 square feet,” he added.

“With these expansions I think that we can get US$50 million between our distribution and the three retail stores over the next three years,” he further said noting other potential opportunities in the region that are being eyed by the company.

The 27 year old company which has been listed on the stock market since 2011, for its nine month period ended March reported net losses of $US3.8 million or $570 million and revenues declines of some 57 per cent expressed hope for the return of profitability going into its subsequent quarters including the summer period, when it is expected that tourism will see significant upticks as tourist arrivals increase and global restrictions relaxed.

The Montego-Bay based company, seen as the largest supplier of goods to the tourism and hospitality sector has been severely impacted, following fallouts in the hospitality market due to the pandemic.

Tyler said that while there remains existing issues to iron out including logistic challenges and rising freight cost, it is taking the necessary steps to ensure that there is the availability of products to service its customers. “I won't get into the details of what's coming or how much we have coming but it's a lot,” he said in agreement with co-founder and executive chairman, Mark Hart who also participated in the forum.

The co-chairman also hinted at some new products to come to market, including seafood, in which it was currently dabbling, along with the expansion of its line of chilled and frozen goods.

BY KELLARAY MILES Business reporter milesk@jamaicaobserver.com

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