Thu | Aug 24, 2017

Growth & Jobs | B & D Trawling's fresh approach to fish exports

Published:Tuesday | June 27, 2017 | 6:00 AMChristopher Serju
Roderick Francis chief executive officer of B & D Trawling (left) and boat captain Peter Grant pose with two of the fish.
Fresh snapper
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Roderick Francis, chief executive officer of B&D Trawling, is excited about the company's first export shipment of fresh, ocean-caught fish to the United States of America.

"We're really seeing this as a significant growth area in the fisheries industry," he told The Gleaner.

"Traditionally, we would have to wait at least 14 days to ship out frozen products, even though it's good, fresh (seafood) products that carried a higher premium, like a dollar US per pound difference. So it was an uphill task to really get the Vet Division (agriculture ministry) to come along with us with this. They had done it before for pond-raised fish (tilapia), but this was different because, then, the fish were raised under controlled circumstances. We really had to sit down with the ministry and really push to get this done; and I must say, I really praise the minister and the team for pushing hard on this to grow the fisheries export," Francis said.

He went on to explain that 'fresh' means the fish is not frozen but, rather, chilled at zero degree Celsius from the time of catch to delivery.

"So when we catch the product, we maintain it at zero degree and come back to shore within five days. The Veterinary Division does a quick inspection and everything looks good, then immediately we get the go-ahead to package it right away and put it on the plane and ship it overseas; and within a day, it's in restaurants all over the United States."

... Jamaicans riding the wave

Local customers have also been riding the fresh-fish wave, much to the delight of B&D Trawling.

"That's the quality we've been delivering in our outlet, and I think that's why people have been really gravitating towards us. Even though we are new on the local market, people have been really supporting the new outlet. We have fresh fish here on a daily basis and you can get your packaged products in the Sea Best brand which is packaged from the fresh fish. What other people will do is buy frozen fish and they will fillet or process it and then refreeze it. But every time you thaw a fish and refreeze it, you lose quality," businessman Roderick Francis said.

"So the difference with ours is, it's only frozen once. When the customer takes it home and refrigerates it and the only time you thaw it is when you are going to eat it, that's the difference in how we achieve the quality that the customers seem to love."

Pressed by The Gleaner about the challenge of meeting the demand for a growing market, Francis spoke about the issue of the company being environmentally responsible.

"It's always a challenge; but everything that we do, we want to do it with sustainability [in mind]. So we [are] not going to go out and, say, overfish this area. We are going to do it properly and ensure that [we] only take a sustainable amount, and that [we] leave enough so that the fish can breed."