Ja chickens get pricey

Jamaica’s largest commercial producer of poultry says it will be forced to hike chicken prices as the cost for corn, a key ingredient in chicken feed, continues to rise rapidly on the international market.

Christopher Levy, senior vice-president of poultry operations at the Jamaica Broilers Group, producers of the Best Dressed Chicken, said as much as five per cent could be added to chicken prices by month-end. Chicken prices were last increased in December. Best Dressed Chicken is imported and sold in the Cayman Islands.

“We are almost having to move our prices on a per shipment basis,” Mr. Levy revealed during a media tour of the company’s processing facilities in St. Catherine recently.

He explained that corn prices have risen over 100 per cent in a year “and that is going to have a direct cost on the poultry industry and any other industry that uses corn, including the ethanol industry.” The high corn prices are being driven primarily by the increasing demand for corn in the production of ethanol in the United States. Jamaica imports about 300,000 tonnes of corn annually to manufacture animal feed.

The Jamaica Broilers senior vice-president noted that the price per bushel of corn in the United States had moved from approximately US$2 over a year ago to more than US$4 currently. “I don’t think the prices will remain. I think they are going to continue to go up over the foreseeable future,” he pointed out.

Dr. Keith Amiel, corporate affairs manager at Caribbean Broilers – the second main commercial producer of chicken meat – said his company would also be hiking chicken prices. Dr. Amiel said consumers could face up to a five per cent increase by February.

Chicken meat is the most popular source of protein for Jamaicans. The country produces up to 52 million kilograms of chicken annually.

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