Premixes are the real competition in flour market, says Seprod boss
Jamaica Grains and Cereals Limited, owned by joint-venture partners Seaboard and Seprod, launched its $3-billion grain mill on Thursday, arguing that it marks the start of the reclamation of the local flour market from imports.
The company has already placed a flour product on the retail market, branded Gold Seal.
"Jamaica sat back and treated manufacturing like a bastard child and sought to be just an importer and distributor of goods. It is time that we stand up and take back what is rightfully ours," said Seprod CEO Richard Pandohie at the formal launch of the factory on Thursday morning.
The investment, at some US$24 million, made jointly by Seprod and American partner Seaboard Corporation, will provide 300 jobs.
Pandohie indicated that while Jamaica Grain will compete against American-owned Jamaica Flour Mills Limited, JFM, domestically, there are areas of new business, both locally and regionally, that can grow the market.
"The fact that another entity is doing a flour mill [means] we can grow the pie. It is always about growing the pie. But so much of our flour consumption has been replaced by premixes - that is the real competition," the Seprod CEO said.
"You go into the hotels and it is all premixes, so unless you expand your mind to look at all the competitive aspects then you will limit yourselves and not see the potential of what you can be," he added.
Prime Minister Andrew Holness welcomed the investment in the mill, saying his administration would work with exporters to ensure that they have access to regional markets.
"It requires entrepreneurs but also support by Government. We need to know that your products can end up in the market of Caricom in a fair way," Holness said.
Pandohie himself noted that the system within Caricom was not equitable while calling for free and fair within the bloc.
"We will always support trade within Caricom but we expect Caricom to be able to set a platform so that trade can be done in a way that can be equitable for all concerned," he said.
Holness described the grain mill as part of a series of investments by businesses that are serving to revitalise the manufacturing sector.
"We want to see more risk-taking and we want to create an environment where entrepreneurs will make more investments," the Prime Minister said.
Seprod and JFM are now the only two operators of flour mills in Jamaica. Last month, they both complained that flour from Trinidad & Tobago was being dumped in Jamaica, saying the practice began over the Christmas period.
Jamaica Flour Mills is a subsidiary of the Archer Daniels Midland Group, which acquired it in 1997.