Jamaica’s poultry companies call for action on import irregularities

Following an official investigation into chicken meat import procedures to the Caribbean island, the report’s authors and local poultry companies are calling for government action to ensure greater transparency and fairness.

freeimages.com/Annie Andre
freeimages.com/Annie Andre

Chicken companies in Jamaica allege that rules on imports of poultry meat into the Caribbean island are being broken by “rogue interests.”

Irregularities include the addition of leg quarters with shipments declared as chicken back and necks, according to Jamaica-Gleaner. Legs and backs are cheaper cuts favored by poor Jamaican households. Accompanied by appropriate certification for these products, chicken legs have been found mixed with incoming shipments. These premium parts attract high tariffs, so the mixed consignments represent evasion of import duties.

These revelations followed an investigation of the trade by the Integrity Commission. As a result, it has recommended that the Government of Jamaica suspends the current procedures.

In response to the findings, one of the two leading poultry producers on the island called for shipments to be thoroughly inspected.

“Rogue interests have tapped systemic corruption in an unlevel playing field,” alleged Dave Fairman, vice-president of Jamaica Broilers.

Citing USDA data, Jamaica Gleaner reports that during the month of October, 1,360 metric tons (mt) of chicken necks and backs were imported into Jamaica. The volume of chicken legs, by contrast, was 404 mt.

As in many other countries, consequences of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic have included a decline in the Jamaican economy. With the loss of jobs and foreign exchange from the closure of the hospitality and tourism sectors, more Jamaicans are switching their purchases from more expensive meats to chicken.

The Government is still to respond to both the Commission’s report, and the calls from the poultry industry to ensure fairness, the source reports.

Trends in Jamaican chicken imports

Over recent years, chicken meat imports into Jamaica have been falling, according to the statistics arm of the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization, FAOstat.

In 2019 — the most recent year for which data have been published — 21,370 mt of chicken was shipped to Jamaica, with a value of US$16.1 million. Five years previously, this trade was 33,430 mt, and worth US$24.9 million.

More on Jamaica Broilers Group

With a laying flock of 600,000 and annual slaughterings of almost 54.4 million birds, Jamaica Broilers is the largest poultry meat company in the Caribbean, according to the WATT Poultry Top Poultry Companies database.

Jamaica Broilers Group Ltd. is a fully integrated poultry processor. Caribbean distribution is handled from multiple Jamaican and Haitian facilities, and international exports originate from two breeding facilities in the U.S.

In September 2019, the company reached an agreement to acquire the Gentry’s Poultry Co. plant in Ward, South Carolina. One year previously, Jamaica Broilers acquired a feed mill in the U.S. state of Georgia.

Latest financial results for Jamaica Broiler Group highlight an 85% year-on-year increase in profit before tax for the half-year to the end of October 2020. The group reports a profit of 1.5 billion Jamaican dollars (JMD; US$10.5 million) for the period. Over the same period, half-year revenue was 1% higher at JMD26.5 billion. Of this total, JMD15.6 billion was generated by the operations in Jamaica, JMD11.4 billion in the U.S., and JMD1.0 billion in Haiti.

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