Jamaica Producers to Make Its Business More Agile Post-COVID-19

May 2, 2021

Food and logistics conglomerate Jamaica Producers (JP) Group said it will be undertaking several new strategies to expand its businesses globally, improve operational efficiency, and further grow revenues in the aftermath of the novel coronavirus pandemic.

During an investor briefing at last week’s Mayberry forum, CEO of JP Group Jeffery Hall said the company will incorporate greater uses of technology as it seeks to reinvent, make transformational changes and exploit new opportunities in the pandemic’s aftermath.

“The big themes that we see for ourselves as important in the logistic space is the rise of e-commerce, and we want to have a fair share of that. We’re looking at ways to do that, with the most immediate and obvious being how we are organising Kingston Wharves to receive cargo in container loads as we try to make it available and more expeditious to users of cargo, including individual importers of personal effects,” Hall said.

“There is a lot of work going on to make the whole experience of going down to the port to collect cargo and standing in lines a thing of the past, and instead put a lot of that unto a smartphone using modern payment systems and behind-the-scene cameras to scan and oversee clearance operations,” Hall said, noting that this move will be very powerful for the business.

The diversified entity, which sources approximately half of its revenues from Europe and North America, is a holding company with businesses in logistics and infrastructure and food and beverage. Kingston Wharves, which is the largest business by assets, totals some $32 billion in value — 42 per cent of which is controlled by JP. Plans are now being fine-tuned to attract more cargo to the port as the country develops and the company operates a network of businesses connecting the Caribbean.

“We’re prepared to make long-term investments at the terminal to allow for efficient movement of cargo, both domestically and through transshipment,” Hall added.

In further outlining the plans for the food and beverage segment, he said the aim was to tap new markets and invest in technologies to extend the shelf life of juices.

“A big part of the focus right now is expanding our juice business outside of The Netherlands where it has a very strong market position. We’ve set ourselves a goal that within the next two years we would like to have core operations [manufacturing and sales] in two of the top-10-by-population markets in Europe. We’ve already done a lot of work on the sales side but we want to do a better job at integrating that going forward,” Hall said.

He pointed out that steps were already taken to pivot its Tortuga rum cake to spirit and Bourbon cakes (which now has a big market in the southern United States). The snack business is also being lined up to incorporate a wider range of products, allowing for greater exploitation of tropical produce and including current plans by the company to roll out a first phase of plantain production on lands adjoining its 400-acre St Mary farm where it already cultivates bananas, pineapples and coconuts.

“We want to persuade Jamaicans to eat more domestic-grown starches and we believe we can offer it to them as a very constructive alternative to excite the market. We think we have a right to win in that space when we have organised ourself,” Hall stated.

In its last financial year ended December, JP recorded net profits of $3.7 billion and $21 billion in revenues. The 90-year-old company’s total assets at the end of the period stood at $40 billion.

“We’re very active at looking at our assets and harvesting returns – where we think appropriate – and making investments in new businesses by acquisitions. Right now is an opportunity for us to make new acquisitions and so we’ve organised our balance sheet to do this. We have just under $10 billion in cash and short-term investments which we plan to deploy in the current environment in a wide range of deals,” Hall said of the prospective plans to fund new acquisitions.

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