Seafood manufacturing giant Rainforest Seafoods is seeking approval for the shipment of live lobster to mainland China, an initiative it says will create a threefold increase for product demand.
Rainforest Manager Max Jardim told the Jamaica Observer that the company now awaits a bilateral discussion between the Government of Jamaica and the Government of China to gain access to the market that has a population of 1.4 billion people, 192 times the size of Hong Kong’s population.
The company began exporting live lobster to Hong Kong from Sangster’s International Airport in 2016, and since then has consistently exported the delicacy weekly.
In fact, Rainforest has reported an increase of 40 per cent in exports from January to July 2017, comparable to the same period in 2016.
Chief Executive Officer Brian Jardim has attributed the surge in exports to the growth of live lobster shipments to Asia and increased penetration in the Caribbean for the company’s range of seafood products, mainly due to its attractive and convenient retail packaging.
According to Jardim, Rainforest has been able to leverage Jamaica’s strategic geographic location to its advantage, shipping an average of three full containers and one or two air shipments per week to 11 English- and French-speaking Caribbean islands, Asia, Europe and North America since the start of the year.
“We have access to competitive shipping rates and a wide range of shipping routes, via sea and air, from Jamaica to the world. Shipping rates and routes can always improve, but for the time being we are making the most of it,” Jardim said in a release from the company.
According to a news report, live lobster exports to China were on pace to triple in value in 2016 despite the incursion of new lobster suppliers to the growing Asian market. The country’s top three suppliers of live lobster include Canada, United Stated and the United Kingdom, with Canada holding market share of 52 per cent.
However, Jardim is optimistic that his company will have an edge over other suppliers as the market perceives Jamaican lobster to be a more exotic delicacy.
DISTRIBUTION CONTRACT WITH ANTIGUA
In a separate development, Rainforest has now signed a distribution contract with Antigua’s largest retailer.
The company noted that the increase in exports for the seven-month period ending July 2017 was largely driven by increased shipments to St Lucia, Barbados and Antigua. Rainforest hopes to increase exports by an additional 10 per cent after signing an agreement with the largest retailer in Antigua, First Choice Foods, to distribute its products.
Exports of both indigenous Jamaican products, such as lobster, conch and value-added products that are manufactured at Rainforest’s Kingston-based factory, including breaded, smoked and pickled fish and burger, continue to be the focus.
“We are on a mission to build a world-renowned brand recognised for healthy, natural products made in Jamaica and produced at the absolute highest quality,” said Jardim.
Rainforest has operations in St Lucia, Barbados and Belize, in addition to its local plants in Kingston and Montego Bay. The company employs more than 600 people across the Caribbean, most of whom are based in Jamaica.
The company has been in expansion mode and has invested in additional processing space at its Kingston plant. Another US$10-million is being pumped into developing a new site beside its existing Montego Bay location, ensuring the company has the capacity to continue to drive export and increase employment opportunities.