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GK to reintroduce La Fe to families, dollar slide worries Wehby

Published:Friday | May 31, 2019 | 12:00 AM
Group CEO of GraceKennedy Limited, Don Wehby.

Food and financial services conglomerate GraceKennedy Limited will be relaunching its La Fe brand in the United States with a roll out of national commercials.

La Fe Foods has operations in Moonachie, New Jersey; Miami, Florida; and Raleigh, North Carolina; with brand and distribution presence in the New York/Tri-state area, Florida, Georgia and the US east coast.

The commercial, also available on YouTube, will praise family values and linking La Fe to achievement, appreciation for family and a reason for celebration. GK Group CEO Don Wehby,  announced the campaign at GraceKnnnedy’s annual general meeting on Wednesday, the first to be held at the company new headquarters on the Kingston waterfront.

La Fe, a Hispanic food business that GraceKennedy acquired in 2014, distributes over 1,400 grocery, frozen, dairy and beverages products from two main points – a central warehouse in New Jersey and a warehouse in Miami.

In other developments at the annual meeting, Wehby joined the chorus of private-sector voices that have been inveighing against the volatility in the local currency.

As a plus for GraceKennedy, the conglomerate processes US$2 billion annually through Western Union, and its ownership of US-based assets serves as “a natural hedge” against the depreciation of the Jamaican dollar.

But Wehby, while citing a 5.6 per cent depreciation of the Jamaican currency in April alone, said the swings in the dollar was bad for business planning. Private-sector groups have been calling on the Bank of Jamaica to adjust its foreign exchange strategy to tamp down on the currency swings.

The Jamaican dollar recently shot above $137 to the USD but is currently back below $134.

Wehby otherwise announced that GraceKennedy was investing in a new compliance system for its money services segment; that the company would relaunching operations in Ghana in the second half of 2019 through a third party; and that restructuring exercise for the group had paid for itself in less than a year, saying productivity was up 28 per cent.

Chief Financial Officer Andrew Messado also told GK shareholders that the $3-billion headquarters project had secured tax credits of over $800 million for 2017 and 2018 for the group.

As planned, a Hi-Lo supermarket outlet has opened at the GK complex, and more retail operations will take up space on the ground floor over the next few months, Messado said.