Billion-dollar beef market in Jamaica goes underservedWednesday, November 24, 2021
BY AVIA USTANNY-COLLINDER
DESPITE the increasing demand for beef, local production has continued to decline in the last two decades.
Production fell to a low of 6 million kilogrammes in 2006 and has not recovered significantly in the years since.
Jamaica continues to import approximately US$16.33 million ($2.6 billion) in beef to supplement local production, indicates Owen Scarlett, senior director of agro-parks and production zones with Agro-Invesment Corporation (Agro-Invest), the State agency which facilitates agri-business.
Scarlett told the Jamaica Observer that some of the challenges being faced by the local beef industry include the low-cost beef products which are being imported into the country and high feed cost (ingredients such as corn).
Producers are also being affected by a lack of infrastructure (such as water supply to irrigate pasture lands), the incidence of cattle disease (BSE) and high labour cost.
Scarlett told the Business Observer that a strategic plan for the industry is needed. The production of beef trended downward during the period 2002-2008 with an overall decline of approximately 65 per cent. In 2019 total production of meat for Jamaica was 150,587 tonnes.
Total production of meat in Jamaica increased from 33,056 tonnes in 1970 to 150,587 tonnes in 2019, growing at an average annual rate of 3.4 per cent (FAO 2019).
The senior director says Agro-Invest continues to support this project through its work by supplying the market with its three major beef breeds —Braham, Jamaica Black Poll and Jamaica Red Poll — through its production site in the parish, which is Minard Estate in St Ann.
Globally, the industry continues to increase in value. Scarlett quotes Statista (2020) which indicates that in 2017 global production of beef and veal amounted to 60.65 million metric tons, with the United States being the top producer of beef and veal of any country worldwide.
In 2018 Jamaica exported $1.62 million worth of beef and beef products. In the same year, however, the island imported US$16.33 million worth of beef and beef products.
Scarlett asserts that import numbers can “easily be reduced significantly through increased production of local beef”.
He told the Business Observer that market segments for beef production include agro-processors, fast food/restaurants, retail, wholesale, hotels, export, and cattle genetics.
However, the production specialist states none of the segments named above are growing significantly in the marketplace. This is due, he said, to the total carcass weight declining from 14,260,000 kg (2002) to 6,031,000 kg (2006).
He stated, “The solution, from my perspective, is to build out a strategic plan for the beef industry, evaluating the internal and external factors that are posing challenges to the industry.”