Christopher Serju, Gleaner Writer
Any hope of revitalising the ailing local dairy industry will require fundamental changes in terms of restructuring and major capital injection by new players, according to agronomist Dr Keith Amiel.
Amiel told the recent annual general meeting of the Jamaica Hope Cattle Breeders Society that the time had come for old-timers like himself to get out of the business and make way for new entrants, with new thinking and new money.
"To build back the dairy industry will take eight to 10 years from now, to move the animals from 15,000 to 150,000 and most of us will be retired or long gone. But even if we plan to be here, we don't have the cash flow to sustain a development that long before we start making money, and so it's not us.
"I believe it is going to be new business people - a new breed of persons. Just like how this Government has been brave enough to create agricultural parks, I believe we have to designate a potential dairy park in just the same way. The person acquiring that new facility is likely to be a businessman and he may employ a graduate of the College of Agriculture, Science and Education to run it for him, but it's going to be a different breed of persons," he said while delivering the keynote address.
Amiel said resuscitating the dairy industry would require a major rethink that would involve returning dairy-cattle rearing to a mixed-farming system and away from the mega commercial stand-alone enterprises of the past.
He went on to cite statistics showing that other factors were projected to continue to negatively impact the profitability of cattle operations.
OTHER SECTORS EXPANDING
"In 2014, the pig population in North America will expand by 3.5 per cent and the consumption of pork per capita will go up by 3.7 pounds. In 2014, the chicken production in North America will go up by 2.5 per cent and the per-capita consumption of chicken meat will go up by a pound.
"In 2014, the cattle population in North America will fall by 5.6 per cent and the consumption of beef will go down by seven pounds per person. So understand what is happening here, that you are in danger of being in an organisation that's really regressing and getting smaller, not only in Jamaica but internationally. The main reason is that the cost of producing beef is significantly higher than for pigs and poultry and it will remain so,"he told the meeting.
Amiel's comments came immediately after an appraisal of Jamaica Hope Cattle at Grove Place, Manchester, in which he and other cattle experts participated and 279 of 319 females were accepted for registration and a mere five bulls presented, all of which were accepted.
The outspoken veteran agriculturalist was scathing in his outlook for the future, using current methodology.
"We're talking about a paradigm shift to create an industry, and it's got to be based on systems, using industrial concepts, with new people who have money to invest to make money and that's not us.
"We will be spectators, we inspire them to do it but it won't be us and so I think the job of the Dairy Board is to go and meet with the bankers. The job of the Dairy Board is to articulate a potential investment project - based on a creamery, based on cheese-making operation, based on a butter-making operation and go out and sell it."