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Jamaica Producers to build new Tortuga plant

Published:Friday | November 13, 2015 | 11:00 AMTameka Gordon

Jamaica Producers Group Limited is to commission a new production plant for its Tortuga International Holdings in Kingston by 2016.

The company made the disclosure in its third-quarter financial reports for the period ending September 2015.

The move will herald an entry into Kingston for the Montego Bay-based manufacturer, held by JP under its JP Food and Drink Division, formerly the JP Tropical Division.

The company revised its business segment classification in January with its three divisions now knows as Logistics and Infrastructure, Food and Drink, and Corporate Services, all of which posted improved profit performance year-over-year.

General Manager of JP Food Crum-Ewing declined to give details on the Tortuga project. In its earnings report, Jamaica Producers said the new

plant will "facilitate our strengthening of the operating performance of this business."

Meanwhile, Jamaica Producers is making good on its plans to re-enter the potato chips market, with the harvesting of its first sweet potato crop roughly a week ago to be used as raw material, Crum-Ewing said.

"Our goal is to have chips in the market in the first quarter of 2016," he said.

Sweet potato will be both sold as fresh produce and used as raw material for snacks, he said.

"We always try to offer a point of differentiation, so we went for a variety that is grown in Jamaica, but not on a wide commercial scale. It is more grown in the US market," the general manager said.

Having planted some 10 acres of sweet potato, the company has so far offered the produce to retailers to test the market and get them "comfortable with the product" before a making an aggressive marketing push next year, he said.

Production of the company's cassava chips for the domestic market has been relocated to Jamaica.

"We do have a variety pack that is made in the Dominican Republic that has some cassava in it. That product still remains in the DR, but all other cassava chips are made here now. We started that in late summer," said Crum-Ewing. New snacks were also launched in the US market.

Jamaica Producers posted reduced revenue of $6.14 billion at the nine-month mark, compared to $6.4 billion in 2014, which the company ascribed to the depreciation of the euro. Profit almost quadrupled in the same period due to a doubling of returns from associated companies and a one-off gain of more than $400 million, mainly from the sale of its headquarters building in New Kingston.

Net profit for the nine-month period was $713 million, compared to $197 million in the 2014 period.

tameka.gordon@gleanerjm.com