Thu | Dec 8, 2016

Pork shortage reaches eateries

Published:Wednesday | April 22, 2015 | 12:00 AMTameka Gordon
Jerk pork being sliced for serving.

The current shortage of pork on the local market has begun to impact the businesses of restaurants and other eateries, some of whom say their servings of pork dishes have been sporadic since December.

Roderick Black, manager for Scotchies Jerk Centre in Kingston, said his eatery has had to fork out more for the pork it buys since the shortage heightened last year, and that his supplies have been cut by 40 per cent.

"Pork is very short, and as a result of that, you have to be paying a higher price than normal," said Black. He adds that the shortage is cyclical and has been on-going for several years, which he blames on poor planning by local pig producers on whom suppliers depend.

Jamaica is primarily dependent on local pig farmers for pork, but production of the animal has been declining. Top suppliers of the meat include Caribbean Broilers Group through subsidiary Copperwood Pork; Caribbean Producers Jamaica Limited and Arosa Limited.

Copperwood has said its supplies are consistent, but other meat suppliers are facing constraints, even as the Ministry of Agriculture continues to signal that it is against opening up pork imports to plug the supply gap.

UNDERWEIGHT PIGS

Chelsea's Jerk Centre, a 38-year-old establishment in Kingston, which specialises in chicken and pork, says its business has also been hit.

"Up to this morning (April 16), we got two pigs and the two of them weighed just 120 pounds, just to show how early the gentleman had to take them out," said secretary Vinnett Anderson of the supplier. "Normally, they average 170 to 180 pounds - and I couldn't get more than two pigs," she said.

Chelsea's has a strong partnership with its meat supplier, who tries "his best" to meet the eatery's demand for pork, Anderson said.

However, Clarendon-based jerk spot Fyah Side has had to cut its fresh and corned pork operations and concentrate solely on sales through its jerk pit, says owner Topper.

Fyah Side is known for its corned pork soup and jerk pork but "sometime we barely have it to jerk", even while adding the price from his suppliers has been "ballooning," Topper told Wednesday Business.

"I sell fresh pork and corned pork and I have to cut those for the last two months, and just do what we need to sell in the shop," he said.

His sales have been falling since the start of the year.

"It's funny how I hear people talking that there is no shortage. I want to know where they get that from," he charged, noting the challenges in getting the meat.

WIDESPREAD SCARCITY

Topper says he buys pigs from farmers in Clarendon, St Catherine and St Elizabeth and has noticed the scarcity from all his suppliers. His St Elizabeth source has not provided any pigs since the start of the year.

To mitigate the impact, Topper has started his own pig farm but "that will take awhile" to start producing pigs for slaughter, likely by summer.

Jackie Tyson, the owner of From Yardstyle to Gourmet, said while she notes the shortage, generally, her operations have not fared badly because of the relationship with her suppliers.

However, "if you look in the supermarkets, there is no pork," Tyson said.

While Jamaica does not rely on pork imports and has not imported the meat on a large scale since the mid-2000s, pork trimmings and pork belly are imported for valued-added processing.

But even supplies of pig's tail - an imported product which processors have said Jamaica cannot currently produce on its own in the quantities needed for local consumption - has fallen short, causing difficulties for Tyson in meeting the demand for her signature mango-glazed pig's tail dish.

A similar complaint of insufficient supplies of pig's tail was lodged by a Kingston-based canteen concessionaire who said she has had to pull her weekly stew peas dish from the menu several times.

Jamaica consumes about 10 million to 11 million kilogrammes of pork annually.

The Jamaica Pig Farmers Association says it expects improvements in production and a normalisation of pork supplies by June.

tameka.gordon@gleanerjm.com