Rainforest using Caribbean expansion as springboard to external markets
Rainforest Seafoods Limited is further expanding its reach to markets in the eastern hemisphere with the development of a new processing centre at Calliaqua in St Vincent & the Grenadines.
Slated for opening at the end of 2018, the factory will service Europe, Asia, North America, and, in smaller quantities, the tourism market in St Vincent.
Business Development Manager at Rainforest Max Jardim said that the company is focused on growing its brand presence throughout the Caribbean, Europe, and Asia.
"Exports of our branded products from Jamaica to these markets are growing well, and we continue to witness increased market share in all three regions," he told Gleaner Business.
The company is investing US$3 million in the new operation, which Jardim said is forecast to grow group revenue by 10 per cent.
That investment is being rolled out while Rainforest continues expansion of its plant in Montego Bay. That investment to grow processing capacity amounts to US$10 million.
The St Vincent factory will be approximately 20,000 square feet and equipped to process multiple species of seafood indigenous to that country, including, but not limited to, lobster, conch, tuna, snapper, and other fish, Jardim said.
He noted that the processing facility in Montego Bay "is slightly larger, at approximately 30,000 square feet". The company also operates a 40,000-square foot plant in Kingston.
Rainforest St Vincent will employ 50 fishermen directly and 200 fishermen indirectly, Jardim said. It will be the company's fourth operation outside of Jamaica, the others being processing facilities in Belize and distribution units in St Lucia and Barbados.
"Our mission is to invest in operations regionally and supply markets across the world," Jardim said. "We are witnessing healthy growth driven largely by our export division."
He said that within the last 12 months, the company has added Antigua, Dubai, Greece, Spain, and Hong Kong as new markets.
"Exports to these markets are conch, lobster, and value-added products processed and exported from our facility in Jamaica," he said.
As the company expands, Jardim notes that one challenge is the variation in food regulations.
"As a region, we should aim to standardise as much as reasonably possible, our governing food-safety regulations. We realise that we are having to adjust the design of each facility to meet the various demands of each governing health body," he said.
On Wednesday, Rainforest issued a release that quoted company CEO Brian Jardim reporting a 40 per cent increase in exports for the period January to July 2017 compared to the same period in 2016.
Brian Jardim attributed the surge in exports to the growth of live lobster shipments to Asia and increased penetration in the Caribbean for the company's range of seafood products.
Since the start of this year, Rainforest said it has been shipping an average of three full containers and one or two air shipments per week to 11 English and French-speaking Caribbean islands, Asia, Europe, and North America.
Contributing to the boost in foreign sales is the trade in live lobster, which the company began exporting from Montego Bay through Sangster International Airport to Hong Kong in late November 2016, and now ships on a weekly basis.
Rainforest employs more than 600 workers regionally, the majority of them in its home market of Jamaica. The company, operational since 1995, distributes more than 400 types of fish, shellfish, and a variety of seafood products.
CORRECTION: This story has been updated to correct the number of Rainforest employees. It is 600, not 6,000.