© Arawak & Company Ltd
Processing facilities (including hatcheries and abattoirs) of the poultry firm Arawak & Co in Trinidad and Tobago © Arawak & Company Ltd
With the potential to be self-sufficient across many island states, the Caribbean’s poultry industry is diverse and rapidly evolving to provide a variety of value-added and branded products. Competitiveness is critical if the region is to defend its market from neighbouring poultry exporters, such as the US.
Driven by increasing population, greater purchasing power and urbanisation, the poultry industry is the most dynamic agricultural subsector. As the largest agro-industrial enterprise in the Caribbean, it provides around €350 million in sales each year, employing close to 100,000 people while supporting a significant population of small rural producers.
Positioned between the world’s biggest exporters of poultry products (Brazil and the US), many CARICOM states have policies which implement tariff measures (ranging from 246% in Jamaica to 40% in Trinidad and Tobago) to defend local markets for fresh chilled and value-added poultry products. A major challenge, however, is the weak national non-tariff regulatory frameworks, which expose consumers to sub-standard and unsafe imports, in particular frozen leg quarters, which are often old and badly labelled and are defrosted to be sold as chilled products. To help ensure better quality and safety across the region, CARICOM has developed regional quality standards (CROSQ) and recently approved the establishment of a Caribbean Agricultural Health and Food Safety Agency.
In response to competition from imported products, as well as an increasing demand for convenience foods, the industry has been developing a variety of branded, value-added products (nuggets, patties, sausages), which meet local and cultural preferences.
Recently, high maize prices (230% increase since 2007/8) have severely impacted producers’ dependence on imported feed. While a few states produce most of their grain requirements, some of the larger island states (Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago) have launched commercial trials to grow maize and sorghum. Guyana and Suriname traditionally use rice by-products in poultry feed and Belize, the only state to be self-sufficient in grain, is now exporting maize to Guyana.
Within the Caribbean poultry industry, the largest processors, such as Jamaica Broilers, Chickmont Foods (Barbados) and Arawak & Co (Trinidad and Tobago), are lead firms in vertically integrated value chains, where the processing facilities (grain terminals, feed mills, hatcheries, slaughterhouses, etc.), are owned by larger commercial private enterprises and farmers are contracted to grow broilers for the slaughterhouses. Most of these chains are investing in automated, high volume, labour-saving technologies and high quality nutritional formulations, which allow operations to meet the international productivity benchmarks for cost competitiveness.
In these value chains, there is a strong alignment along the chain to service specific markets. In Trinidad, for example, where supermarkets and fast food outlets have the largest market share of prepared poultry meats, agro-processors are actively involved in discussions with retailers on chain competitiveness, with high levels of information exchange and coordination of processing technologies, farms and breeds. In Jamaica, some members of the Jamaica Egg Farmers Association have joined with a major food distributor to invest in a liquid egg processing unit. Converting fresh eggs into liquid eggs allows them to compete with imported products in supplying the hotel and fast food industries.
© Arawak & Company Ltd
Role for smallholders
While the commercial sector has become increasingly sophisticated, there has continued to be a good relationship with smaller farmers. In Jamaica, over 25% of broilers are produced by small and backyard farmers, who source chicks, feed and equipment from larger, private sector input suppliers. Across the region many of the table eggs are produced by smaller farmers. Whilst small poultry producers in the Caribbean are less co-ordinated and more independent, they are nevertheless benefiting from improvements in genetics, feed formulations and health management through the support of commercial value chains.
Note: Article taken from SPORE Magazine No. 164 June - July 2013 (issue)