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Jamaica Broilers pumps $200m into Cumberland hatchery

The Jamaica Broilers Group, JBG, is projecting a 70 per cent spike in the production of broiler chicks after pouring $200 million into expansion of a hatchery in Cumberland, St Catherine.

A sizeable portion of the investment paid for equipment and technology to get the hatchery operating more efficiently. The hatchery itself was expanded from 25,000 square feet to 35,000 square feet.

President and CEO of Jamaica Broilers Group Christopher Levy said plans for the expansion began over a year ago and was targeted at ensuring a steady supply of baby chicks to small farmers, particularly during high-demand seasons, such as November and December.

“Small farmers are often seasonal in their supplies because they are in and out of business, and so what the country gets is peaks and troughs. With the increase in production, we will certainly be able to create some consistency in the market,” Levy said, following a tour of the expanded facility on Wednesday.

Jamaica Broilers last invested in the upgrade of the Cumberland hatchery in 2016, then spending $14 million on its rehabilitation. The hatchery was previously operated by the Jamaica Livestock Association.

At that time, the hatchery had the capacity to produce 625,000 baby chicks monthly, or 7.5 million annually. But Levy declined to speak to the production capacity this time around, citing competitive reasons.

“What I can say is that the increasing capacity will certainly allow us to fulfil demand from farmers, who are a very important part of the local broiler chicken market,” he said.

Jamaica Broilers sources its hatching eggs from subsidiary International Poultry Breeders, which operates locally from the parish of St Ann and overseas, in the United States.

The eggs are then transported to the hatcheries, where hatchability rates are said to be on par with the top five per cent of similar operations in the USA.

The poultry producer has two local hatcheries – at Cumberland and White Marl in St Catherine. Both operations serve contract and independent farmers through the provision of what Jamaica Broilers says is the “highest-quality, day-old broiler chicks” at its Hi-Pro subsidiary.

Hi-Pro, which is also located in White Marl, is Jamaica’s largest provider of animal feed, baby chicks and ready-to-lay pullets.

According to data from the Ministry of Agriculture & Fisheries, some 200,000 small broiler farmers across Jamaica produce 30 to 40 per cent of the chicken meat consumed by Jamaicans. The other 60 per cent comes from large poultry players, Jamaica Broilers and Caribbean Broilers Group.

Local poultry meat production hit 133 million kilogrammes in 2019, but fell to 122 million kilogrammes during 2020 during the height of the coronavirus pandemic. Last year, Jamaica surpassed the pre-COVID production rate, to hit 138.5 million kilogrammes. Meanwhile, table egg production has steadily grown year-on-year to 232 million.

Amid the improved output for the sector, Jamaica Broilers has seen a rise in its own fortunes. Over nine months ending January, its sales turnover topped $68 billion, a jump of 27 per cent year-on-year, while its profits more than doubled to $4.5 billion,

Levy, in his statement to shareholders, said the third-quarter results benefited from increased production and increased sale of baby chicks to small farmers in Jamaica.

He added that the resurgence of the tourism sector and growth in the wider economy fuelled demand for JBG’s products.

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