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GK to freeze root crops for export - Denbigh plant investment to create 70 jobs

Published:Wednesday | July 5, 2017 | 12:03 AM
Don Wehby, Group Chief Executive Officer, GraceKennedy Limited.

GK Foods & Services Limited will commission its sixth manufacturing plant in Jamaica next year, following retrofitting of a newly acquired facility to process fruits and vegetables for the local market and export.

The 60,000 square foot plant in Denbigh, Clarendon, already contains a specialised agro-processing production line.

GK Foods, a subsidiary of GraceKennedy Limited, is investing $215 million overall in the acquisition and retrofitting project, but Group CEO Don Wehby declined to disclose how much of that was spent on the acquisition and the seller of the asset, citing confidentiality agreements.

GraceKennedy's last investment in new manufacturing facilities was a pepper plant commissioned at Hounslow in St Elizabeth in 2011 to produce pepper mash as raw materials for the manufacture of its own branded food and spice products, but also for sale to agro-processors. The Denbigh Plant to begin operating around mid-2018, will give the company additional capacity in the frozen foods arena, inclusive of locally produced tubers to be procured from farmers. It's expected to create 70 jobs.


New objective


"The packaging of frozen foods is part of our new strategic objective to increase food exports from 20 per cent of output to 40 per cent by 2020," Wehby told Gleaner Business.

"The plant will package ackee for export in a new and innovative form. It will also package yam, cassava and other products," he said.

The company's other five manufacturing facilities operate as: Dairy Industries (Ja) Limited; Grace Agro-Processors Division, producers of farm fresh vegetables, under which the pepper plant also operates Grace Food Processors Canning Division, which produces beverages, canned vegetables and sauces; National Processors Division, which outputs dry mixes for soups, drink crystals, cereals and meat alternatives; and Grace Food Processors Division, which produces canned sausages and frozen processed meats.

GraceKennedy, one of the largest single-entity food manufacturers in the Caribbean, says more than 50 per cent of the food sold under the Grace brand is manufactured in these five factories in Jamaica.

Wehby said the capital outlay in the Denbigh plant will procure agro-processing equipment, install blast-freezing capability, refurbish and upgrade the complex, install a wastewater management system, and fund product research and development.

"We have been working towards this acquisition since late 2015 and I am pleased that we can now officially put this well-placed facility to productive use," Wehby said in a statement announcing the acquisition on Monday.

"This plant, our sixth manufacturing plant in Jamaica, will be another channel for farmers to supply goods that are in high demand in North American and UK markets," the GK CEO said.