Labelled sugar scanty in early phase of switchover
Two off-the-top sellers of retail sugar say there is no real shortage of domestic supplies, notwithstanding the reduced shelf space and scanty supplies noted in some grocery stores as new packaging standards take effect.
The new rules require the packagers of retail sugar be registered with the National Compliance and Regulatory Authority (NCRA), a unit of Bureau of Standards Jamaica.
Both Jamaica Gold and Golden Grove brands were seen on multiple shelves, but other brands were mostly absent.
"The new labelling and packaging standard is working well," said Marilyn Anderson, corporate secretary at Seprod Limited, whose sugar subsidiary produces the Golden Grove brand.
"Production has been ramped up to meet the additional demand, which is expected to allay any shortages," she said.
Major Hugh Blake, general manager of Jamaica Cane Products Sales (JCPS), says JCPS has more than enough sugar for the market. JCPS pools raw sugar from several estates, which it markets on their behalf.
Blake said he does not expect any real changes in the market as a result of the July 1 changes that standardised the packaging of sugar, only that grocery retailers would move from purchasing the product in bulk and buy from packagers instead. JCPS's own retail product is sold under the Jamaica Gold brand.
"I do not anticipate any increase in overall sales," he said. "We are replacing bulk sugar with packaged sugar."
JCPS sells around 26,000 tonnes of sugar annually to the domestic market, accounting for around 55 per cent market share, according to Blake, who also noted that the marketing agency had a good supply of the commodity in its warehouse.
NCRA said Monday that six companies have been approved so far to package sugar bound for the retail market.
Caribbean Depot Limited will package the Jamaica Gold, Golden Grove, and Eve brands on behalf of their respective owners; Cost Club Limited will package for MegaMart; DK Processors Jamaica Limited will do the Diamond Krystal and Paradise brands; Hi-Lo Food Stores for the Hi-Lo brand of brown sugar; Lloyds Manufacturing Company Limited for brands May's, Grace and Secrets; and Palm Rose Limited for Royal Rose.
MUST BE SEALED, BRANDED
The packaging must include product name and brand name; net content; name and address of manufacturers, distributors, importers or vendors; storage conditions; country of origin; lot identification; date markings; and instructions for use. And the packaging plants must implement a food safety system.
The new standards cover both brown sugar and granulated or refined sugar.
The regulations prohibit packaging at the point of sale, the sugar must be sealed and labelled, and there should be no foreign matter in the sugar that may compromise food safety, NCRA said. Non-compliance may result in steep fines and confiscation of the product, it added.
Derrimon Trading Limited has been contracted by JCPS to distribute Jamaica Gold, said Chairman and CEO Derrick Cotterell.
Derrimon has boosted its fleet of trucks to 75 to handle the new business and will also be opening a new regional centre in St Ann, this week, Cotterell told Gleaner Business.
None of the grocery stores where scanty sugar supplies were noted returned calls for comment on how the migration to the new standards was impacting them. Hi-Lo said it has no supply challenges.
Cotterell, whose company owns and operates two grocery retailers, Sampars and Select, said the main difference since the switch is manifested in the price of the commodity, but said, "right now, the cost is not the significant factor - it is food safety" that's important.
"You can't wash sugar. You also need to be assured of the packing and storage conditions," he said.
UPDATE: This story has been updated to correct the name of the general manager of Jamaica Cane Product Sales to Major Hugh Blake.