No chicken feed

Broilers projects poultry industry will earn $54b this year, plans education campaign

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

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Jamaica Broilers Group (JBG) has projected that the local poultry industry will bring in approximately $54 billion in retail sales this year and, as such, the company said it will be launching a national public education campaign on the industry's contribution to the economy.

The announcement was made by Conley Salmon, president, JBG Jamaica operations, at the Best Dressed Chicken Farmers Awards luncheon on December 4 at the Terra Nova Hotel in Kingston, a company news release stated.

Commending players in the industry for their professionalism and hard work, Salmon said the time had come for the wider public to better understand the industry's impact on employment provided by the 60,000 contract farmers, over 2,000 large ones, as well as an increasing group of backyard growers.

“We are preparing a booklet which will highlight the poultry industry's contribution to nation-building, including the fact that farmers pay taxes amounting to about $46 billion a year, which help to maintain such social amenities as roads and schools,” he said.

According to Salmon, local broiler farmers produce between 2.5 million and three million kilos of chicken meat every week.

“This is big business, but it is vulnerable to an ever present threat from the dumping of cheap imports. This is the reason we have to keep the public educated as to the value of the industry and how it contributes to communities. We have had good partnerships over the years with the respective governments, but must maintain an effective lobby with the nation's leaders to ensure we operate free of unfair competition from dumped, subsidised chicken,” the release quotes Salmon.

“Many people have no idea about the size of our industry, which involves a variety of skill sets, such as the farmers, vets, truck drivers, retailers, wholesalers, and food vendors,” he said, adding that the projected $54 billion in retail sales represent about 50 per cent of the revenue from non-traditional agricultural products in Jamaica.

“Over the past five years the layer and broiler industries combined have grown by close to 25 per cent — a remarkable achievement, of which we can be proud. This also speaks to the close co-operation between the Government and the industries, aimed at feeding our nation,” Salmon said.

He also told his audience that the importation of chicken neck and back had declined drastically in recent times, as backyard farmers were able to produce more whole chickens at the same cost as the retail price of between $90 and $100 per pound for imported neck and back, effectively outdoing low quality imports.

“These industrious farmers feed themselves and neighbours on a superior, home-grown product, while saving foreign exchange. So we need to encourage them. In fact, the majority of backyard farmers are women who support their families with that income. When they sell meat from 100 chickens at retail value, they earn about six weeks' minimum wage. And that's a success story more people need to hear about,” Salmon said.

He also pointed out that the layer industry had grown by 54 per cent over the last five years, with about 950,000 birds in production at present. However, he lamented the fact that, unlike chicken meat, or any other agricultural product in Jamaica, eggs attract GCT, which, he said, was a “growing shame”.

“Production by egg farmers is increasing, and egg consumption has also moved up from an average of one egg per person per week to close to an average of two eggs per person per week. These farmers also earn minimum wage every week from 150 hens,” Salmon noted.

Jamaica Broilers Group President and CEO Christopher Levy described contract farmers as the “real investors” in the island's poultry industry. “They are the ones who leverage their assets and invest in their farms for the long term,” he told guests at the awards ceremony.

In recognising the confidence they have placed in the group, Levy noted that JBG had grown over the past 59 years to become a multinational company with 300 contract farmers in the USA, while in Haiti the group had 500,000 layers on a 300-acre farm to meet the demands for eggs, which are the main source of protein in that country. Expansion in Jamaica includes doubling the capacity of the group's hatchery operations and installing a third pellet mill at its Best Dressed Feed Mill.

“The diversification of our operations has allowed us to leverage the expertise we have in the group, especially in the areas of management, marketing and technology,” Levy noted.

He said as the group , which will observe its 60th anniversary in 2018, had grown significantly from its early days when it produced 10,000 birds per week to 12,000 birds an hour currently.

Among the farmers awarded for outstanding performance at the function were Alexander Grant Farm as Top Producer with less than 96,000 birds and Azan's Farm, which was declared Top Producer with more than 96,000 birds.

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