Jamaica-based Rainforest Seafoods has expanded its presence to five countries in the Caribbean as it pushes to cement itself as a regional seafoods and agro-processing entity.
“The Caribbean side of the business is really growing and it is something we are proud of. We have footprints right now in Barbados, Belize and St Lucia. In St Vincent we recently opened a new plant,” Roger Lyn, director of marketing and corporate affairs at Rainforest Seafoods, told the Jamaica Observer. The fifth location is the company’s headquarters and processing facilities in Jamaica.
Lyn said the plant in St Vincent and the Grenadines, which is the latest to be opened, produces conch which is exported to the US. He told the Caribbean Business Report that new products would be added to that processing plant in the near future.
“We are about to open a new distribution centre in St Lucia from which we will distribute products to hotels, supermarkets and restaurants, etc,” he added.
Rainforest Seafoods has been operating in St Lucia previously but has strengthened its capacity to serve the market. “We expect there will be growth there, because the facilities should allow us to do 10 times what we are doing now,” Lyn continued.
“We are trying to capitalise on the growth, we are not slowing down. We are still in growth mode. In Barbados we are building more retail stores. We are also working on our distribution centre in that country as well. We are also looking to expanding our operations in Belize where we have our shrimp farm and lobster operations, fin fish and stone crabs,” he pointed out.
He said the company will, for the foreseeable future, double down and concentrate on growing its presence in those markets and is making the investment that is necessary to achieving the goal “before we start looking out to other markets.”
Lyn, however, indicated that the company has expanded its exports to the region. Rainforest Seafoods, which was started in 1995 by Brian Jardim, previously only imported fish from Guyana which were distributed to hotels in the Eastern Caribbean. In fact, it was the rainforests of Guyana which inspired the name of the company
“Before we never exported to Guyana. We import fish from Guyana, but now we are also exporting to Guyana. We export products to which we add value. Who is to tell, maybe soon we will build out in Guyana, but right now the areas we are focusing on [outside Jamaica] are Belize, Barbados, St Lucia and St Vincent and the Grenadines.”
In Jamaica, however, the company is looking to expand further outside of seafoods into doing more agro-processing and has purchased an 80-acre farm in Trelawny to help in that regard with a focus on cassava.
“We are also looking to bolster our agro-processing. We started with bammy, but we are looking at other products as well,” Lyn said. The Caribbean Business Report understands the company is looking at getting into the market for exporting ackee and callaloo.
Lyn said the company is also pivoting to buy more local produce. “We are buying a lot of local beef, pork and chicken and we will be buying a lot more local produce,” he beamed. It also plans to build a butchery and will be going after more business in the resorts sector of the island especially with the building of new hotel properties on the islands north coast.
Rainforest’s diversification efforts during the pandemic has produced a more resilient and robust organisation. The compant said its export and offshore revenues increased 40 per cent in 2021 versus pre-pandemic 2019 and are on track to increase over 90 per cent in 2022 versus 2019.
Rainforest now exports to over 30 countries worldwide and said it is focusing on increasing its offerings to the North American and UK diasporas. It processes over 400 varieties of seafood.
The company recently hosted a delegation from the Ministry of Agriculture, led by the minister himself, Pearnel Charles Jr, at its Slipe Road, St Andrew offices and processing plant.