Crawford demonstrates how to use a grass cutting and bagging machine on his farm in St Mary.
Crafton Holdings targets gym goers and ready-made food market

CRAFTON Holdings is set to launch at least three new products this year, expanding its reach into agriculture and agro-processing as it seeks to further diversify out of liquid eggs.

Damion Crawford, CEO of Crafton Holdings, told the Jamaica Observer, “We already pasteurise liquid egg and will be bringing out egg white in January for those who go to the gym.”

Crawford, who also started a goat farm in St Mary three years ago, added, “The real money is in agro-processing. Agriculture is very important and you can earn a living, but the real money is carrying it to the final stages. And so we have made a can soup [mannish water] which we expect will give us a greater mark-up than we would [get] if we are just selling the head and the belly. We'll [also] be doing pre-season goat meat.”

He did not give a timeline this year for the canned mannish water but said he is already working with Derrimon Trading Company to distribute the product. The seasoned goat meat he said is now in development “to ensure a consistent taste”.

The next product Crafton Holdings is setting to roll out this year is fish fillet. “We are discussing fish fillet under a particular joint brand with a distribution company. So that is a special type of fish and we will start with the tilapia because of what is the knowledge on the market right now. However, we want to eventually go into a branded fillet,” he told the Caribbean Business Report.

Crawford, who operates a 117-acre farm in St Mary, currently has three caged coops for layers, two for growing small birds into layers, an abbatoir and two goat houses on the property. The farm was started originally to help provide eggs for liquid eggs which he produces for the tourism market.

“In 1998, I was in school and I learnt that every hotel room occupied consumes six eggs a day. And so with Jamaica always increasing the number of hotel rooms that we have, I figured that it will be profitable and beneficial if I would go into what is constantly consumed based on the culture — omelettes, cakes and salads. So I went into that from the pasteurisation of liquid eggs and then put in the farm to ensure I have supplies for my factory,” he stated.

But that venture, like most, was hard-hit by the pandemic.

“COVID was extreme because we mainly focused on the hotels and once they were closed we were impacted. We moved from 400 cases of eggs per week to 70 cases of eggs per week, so when it came we had to kill over 12,000 birds, a cost of $12 million, just to sustain ourselves. A lot of people wonder why you kill your birds, but to feed 12,000 birds is easily $1 million per week. So you can't continue to feed birds if you don't have a market for the eggs. So, it was devastating, we had to lay off some of our people,” he revealed.

He said he was lucky to have ventured into goat rearing, which he said was driven by his personality to “prove myself correct” after receiving ridicule for proposing goat farming as a means of creating wealth when he was a candidate for the People's National Party in the Portland Eastern constituency by-election of April 2019.

“It was based on the ridicule that I developed the concept. While doing the manifesto for Portland, I was exposed to goats and the value of the imports and then with the national ridicule, my personality says I would prove myself correct. It has paid my mortgage. When the eggs went down, it was the goats that were able to earn me a living. I started with 40 goats; three years now and we are now at 312. So I think the concept has been proven.”

Jamaica imports over $2 billion in mutton which is used as a substitute for goat meat in curry dishes.

Crawford says he hopes to become a major player in that market.

“If we look at 612,000 households in Jamaica, at least 50 per cent will do what we call a 'Sunday meat' — oxtail once a week or curry goat once a week. So we assume five pounds per household for 300,000 households every week. And we not counting restaurants, just households. Sunday consumption and holiday consumption,” he said as he outlined the scale of the market he is going after.

“What we want to do is become food-sufficient. We are aiming at 1,000 mother goats that would give us approximately 4,000 kids a year to go into the market averaging about 50 pounds after they have been slaughtered. That is what we are looking to achieving,” he added. He also said in the same way that a Jamaican variety of cattle was developed, such as the Jamaica Red Poll, he was now trying to develop a Jamaican goat by interbreeding. Crafton Holdings is also looking to add fish ponds at the St Mary site.

“We are in the first phase of building our fish ponds, be it tilapia or otherwise, but freshwater fish. We are now finishing our first one-acre pond. It has been said that in six months you can make $800,000 profit. That's what the Ministry of Agriculture has been informing us,” he noted.

Onions and other cash crops are also being contemplated on the sprawling St Mary farm. But developing products is not his only aim. Crawford says he also wants to establish his company as a household brand that will be among the established brands in Jamaica.

“You can easily transfer your brand to your child, the value of the brand that you develop, than you can transfer your physical effort. So the long-term aspects of Crafton Holdings, we want our brand to be established like a GraceKennedy brand or a Best Dressed brand, so that our children then can manage the business more than being on the farm itself.”

“I'm hoping to be an example to the young people that farming can be sexy, it can be exciting and it can be profitable. A lot of the faces of farming is our grandfather with a cutlass... but we are investing in technology to improve yield,” he explained.

He said though the tourism sector is recovering, his company is yet to reach pre-pandemic levels of liquid egg sales. “We haven't been able to take advantage as yet, because it takes 21 weeks for a bird to start laying eggs, so at the time the revival of the tourism sector came about, no birds were available. But we are excited because the calls are coming in and the requests are once again coming in, so we are now preparing to move forward,” Crawford said.

Crawford also said he is grateful to the Development Bank of Jamaica and the Rural Agricultural Development Authority for the help received in building out the farm in the form of loans and technical support.

As for politics: “I'm still a senator and still a member of the People's National Party. But you have to ensure you can afford politics, and that's what I am doing. Politics is a rich man's sport... and I am trying to put myself in a position that if I am still interested, then I can afford it,” he said.

Damion Crawford, CEO ofCrafton Holdings
Farmers on tour of CraftonHoldings farm in St Mary look onas goats feed on the property.
Goats millingaround asCrawfordexplains hisbusinessmodel tocolleaguefarmers.
Goats on the Crafton Holdings farm in St Mary.
A section of the 117-acre Crafton Holdings farm in St Mary.
Expanding
Goats on Crafton Holdings farm in St Mary.
BY DASHAN HENDRICKS Business content manager hendricksd@jamaicaobserver.com

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