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Seprod crafting private-public milk partnership - Target: 20 million litres

Published:Sunday | October 30, 2016 | 12:00 AMTameka Gordon
Richard Pandohie, CEO of Seprod Limited.

Serge Island Dairies, a subsidiary of Seprod Limited, says it is on target to grow its milk production to 7.4 million litres this year.

That would put it in command of nearly 60 per cent of the local market, which outputs 12-13 million litres annually.

But Seprod has even bigger ambitions: to get national output to 20 million litres by 2020.

Seprod chief executive officer Richard Pandohie told Gleaner Business that the company is now crafting a plan to submit to Government for a private-public partnership.

"We are putting a programme together to go to the government, to show them how we can do this," Pandohie said.

Last year, Serge produced approximately 6.5 million litres of milk, a yield significantly impacted by the drought. But a recent investment of $220 million in irrigation at the St Thomas-based dairy operation will allow the company to meet its target for 2016, Pandohie said.

"In the meantime, the increase in production has come from having the ability to grow our feed ourselves," he said, while also giving credit to the network of small farmers from whom the company purchases milk for the improved outlook.

Milk production from the small farmers has also gone up by 30-40 per cent this year so far, he said.

"A number of them have doubled their herd production because there seems to be a renewed interest in the dairy sector," said Pandohie.

Serge is supplied with milk from several parishes, including St Elizabeth and St Catherine.

"That was the main reason for the increase," he said.

But: "We can do so much more," he added. "The industry just could not compete when the liberalisation of milk-powder happened. It shows you the opportunity that we have to get back to where we were," he said.

The liberalisation happened more than two decades ago. Pandohie's plan to get to 20 million litres of milk in four years would still put the industry half-way back to its 1994 performance when out hit 39 million litres.

Seprod's own herds yield eight litres per cow per day, but that should increase to 11 litres per cow per day with improvements to the irrigation system, the company said.

Seprod also invested $15 million in its community farming programmes to enhance farmer yield through genetically sound animals, improvements to land and fodder, as well as increased payments to farmers for milk supplies.

Total fresh milk produced averages 12.7 million litres annually now but the Jamaica Dairy Development Board has indicated the country needs at least 40 million litres to satisfy local demand.

That is where Seprod's plan for the private-public partnership comes in, Pandohie said, while noting the details will be revealed later.

Around 90 per cent of Jamaica's milk and dairy consumption is fed by imports, the company said, citing 2012 data which valued imports at roughly $50 million.

Jamaicans drink 105 millilitres of milk per day, which is a third less per capita than Latin America and the rest of the Caribbean.

"The Jamaican average is half of the World Health Organisation daily requirement," said Seprod.

The consumption levels are partially health related as some 50 per cent of the Jamaicans are deemed lactose intolerant. A week ago, Seprod launched a lactose-free milk to tap into that market segment.

"We have opened up ourselves to serving more people (and) more people have been asking for it, so we expect it to continue to grow," Pandohie said of the new product.