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JP invests in plantain farm, weighs other expansion

Published:Friday | April 30, 2021 | 12:17 AM
Jamaica Producers Group CEO Jeffrey Hall.
Jamaica Producers Group CEO Jeffrey Hall.

Jamaica Producers Group Limited, JP Group, is pumping $100 million into a plantain farm on lands adjoining its banana and pineapple operations in St Mary.

JP’s initial plan is first to secure markets for fresh plantains then expand into value-added products, such as pre-peeled, ready-to-cook plantains.

The food and logistics conglomerate, which is already in the market with plantain chips that are manufactured in the Dominican Republic under its St Mary’s brand, has earmarked 50 hectares of land for the plantain operation.

Jamaica Producers CEO Jeffrey Hall said the project roll-out was in its early stages, but that the acreages assigned to the farm may gradually increase.

The company’s farm-fresh portfolio already includes ripe and green bananas, pineapples and coconuts. Some of that raw material supports the company’s snack operations, produced under the St Mary’s line, which includes breadfruit chips, cassava, banana chips, ripe and green plantain chips and plantain strips, among others.

Hall disclosed the addition of plantain to its portfolio of crops at the regular Mayberry Investor Forum ,where he was this week’s special presenter on Wednesday.

Jamaica Producers is primarily invested in food and logistics.

The pandemic notwithstanding, the conglomerate is in growth mode, with its most recent acquisition being a 50 per cent stake in Geest shipping line that was announced this month.

“We are a holding company, so we do make good money buying businesses, and we’ve been doing this quite successfully for some time. A big part of what we will be doing to make money is to buy businesses, hold and harvest them at an appropriate time,” Hall said.

“As far as underpinning strategic moves in the businesses that we have, we have been doing a lot of work to simplify the business of moving cargo across the terminal. The next chess move from Kingston Wharves is for persons to be able to do the clearance and bill-payment process on their phone and for delivery to be made to the customers.”

Hall otherwise noted that the group is contemplating whether to expand the types of cargo handled by Kingston Wharves, saying “by that I mean adding other big commodities”, but said it would mean a commitment to “fairly long-term investments in specialised equipment”.

On the food side of the operation, JP also has ambitions to grow its A.L. Hoogesteger Fresh Specialist BV operation in Northern Europe.

“A big part of my focus right now is expanding our food and business outside of Netherlands, where it has a very strong market. We’ve set ourselves a goal that within the next two years, we’d like to have manufacturing and sales operations in two of the top 10, by population, markets in Europe,” Hall told the forum.

“We’ve already done quite a bit of work on the sales side, and now we want to do better at integrating that going forward,” he said.