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Mavis Bank seeks bigger markets in Canada

Published:Friday | September 3, 2010 | 12:00 AM
Jamaica's consul general to Toronto, Seth George Ramocan (second right), examines a Mavis Bank Coffee Factory Limited product being shown by the company's chief executive officer, Senator Norman Grant, at a meeting at the Jamaican Consulate in Toronto. Also at the meeting were the Canadian distributor for Mavis Bank's Jablum brand, Hal Campbell (second left), and Jampro's North American Manager, Robert Kerr (right). - JIS

In 1953, the first three barrels of Blue Mountain coffee were shipped to Japan, and so began a long relationship which led to nearly 100 per cent, or approximately 400,000 boxes, of Jamaica's premium coffee being exported to the Asian country annually.

In 2004, Jamaican coffee farms took a beating from Hurricane Ivan, causing a significant decrease in production. This resulted in exports to the Japanese market dipping to approximately 250,000 boxes. Jamaican coffee farmers worked assiduously to bring back the coffee crop and, by 2006/2007, production started to increase and reached approximately 350,000 boxes, of which Japan bought 85 per cent.

Then the world recession hit, and the Japanese responded by reducing their purchases of Blue Mountain coffee by 40-50 per cent.

It energised Jamaica's search for new markets.

"We are looking at an aggressive strategy to diversify the market. Our move now is to target Canada, and we would like to introduce green beans into the Canadian market," said chief executive officer of Mavis Bank Coffee Factory, Senator Norman Grant, during a meeting with Jamaica's consul general to Toronto, George Ramocan.

Grant said that in 2009, Mavis Bank was the largest coffee operation in Jamaica, getting its coffee from approximately 6,000 farmers from 90 districts in the Blue Mountain region. The company is owner of the Jablum brand, which is distributed in Canada by Hal Campbell.

Mavis Bank exported 68 per cent of its output to Japan, 20 per cent to the United States, and the rest went to Europe and other markets.

"Over the next five years, we expect to be selling in the region of US$2.5 million in the Canadian market, which will represent about 15 per cent of our sales," Grant said.

He indicated that, so far, discussions have been very successful with Canadian roasters and coffee houses and are very advanced with one particular coffee house.

"We will have the green beans here, so that they can be purchased on a just-in-time basis. We will feed the Canadian market from the stocks in our warehouse in the United States. This will give a lot of flexibility to the markets in Canada," said the coffee executive.