Pork producers in Puerto Rico are faced with increasing environment regulations that they are having problems meeting under existing technologies and strategies. At the same time they are competing against increasing pork imports from the US and abroad. This project seeks to integrate these concerns of environmental and marketing to produce sustainable strategies for the future of this industry on the island.
The marketing survey portion of this study has identified strategic opportunities for these farmers with the local Lechon restaurants. It will necessitate the farmers moving to a centralized finishing and kill facility to address these opportunities.
In recent years pork production has been disappearing from Puerto Rico due to cheap imports from the multi national producers. The pork producers in Puerto Rico are interested to exploit the potential opportunity of selling directly to the lechon (roast suckling pig) restaurants. A market survey has been completed by the pork producers cooperating with the University of Puerto Rico which surveyed 30 restaurants. The data has been collected, but still needs additional statistical analysis and translation. This study has shown that these restaurants commonly need smaller pigs than those imported, would prefer a fresh pig that they do not need to thaw, and they require delivery. The restaurant owners frequently stated that they are willing to pay more for this product and services. This combination of requirements would lend itself well to a branded product.
This project would also address food safety and quality issues from the lechon restaurants serving from the same pig for multiple days and problems with properly thawing the pig which are typically hung outside. The lechon restaurants are a common “cottage industry” in Puerto Rico and are typically an extension of the home. There are an estimated 400 lechon restaurants on the island.
For the farmers to be able to do this they need a farmer-owned slaughter (and possibly processing) facility and refrigerated delivery trucks. The producer group has many questions about the feasibility of this venture, how to set up, and how to operate a farmer-owned processing business. The farmers are also interested in exploring new pork products such as southern style “pulled pork” which is not known on the island and would have market potential with the thousands of outdoor lunch stands.
For this grant application they are proposing to visit Mountain Grove Pork Processing in Missouri, one of only two such farmer owned facilities in the US. Mountain Grove produces a full line of cut pork, pulled pork, sausage, smoked meats, etc. The Puerto Rican farmers have established contact with the owners and Missouri Extension Service to host their visit. The grant also proposes to hire a consultant to do a preliminary feasibility study for the Puerto Rican farmers. Relevant educational equipment is included in the grant for outreach activities.
The project will be sponsored by the Municipality (similar to a county) of Jayuya and the Pork Producers Nucleus (similar to a cooperative under PU law) with technical support from El Atlantico Resource Conservation & Development. Project participants will be Rebecca Perez, Agricultural Coordinator for the Municipality of Jayuya. Farmer cooperators are Jose A. Sosa and Orlando Medina, both are officers of the local Pork Producers Nucleus.
Finish the marketing survey. All data has been collected from on site interviews. Additional statistical and translation work remains to be done.
Visit the farmer owned processing facility in Missouri and obtain information about pertinent experiences, financing, management, and legal structure. Farmers will visit southern style BBQ restaurants to identify potential new pork products for the Puerto Rican market.
Have a consultant review the project on site with suggestions with how to proceed and prepare a project proposal. The Municipality of Jayuya will furnish lodging and per diem costs. The grant would be used only to pay consultant fees and airfare.
Develop a Power Point presentation on the overall project to share with various groups. It will need to be very professional for presentation to the Puerto Rico Secretary of Agriculture, who could be a source of future funding.
Develop Strategic Plans for the Pork Producers. Both a short range 1 year plan long range 5 year plan will need to be prepared.
Survey Completion will involve statistical analysis of the survey questionnaires results by a graduate student from the University of Puerto Rico – Mayagüez. Results will then be translated into English by El Atlantico RC&D staff.
Missouri visit by Rebecca Perez, Jose A. Sosa, and Orlando Medina. University of Missouri and Missouri Farmers Union will provide logistics support and itinerary. Dr. Van Ayers will coordinate.
Consultant Visit will involve a consultant visiting Puerto Rico for 5 working days on-site. All stake holders in Puerto Rico to participate including pork producers, El Atlantico RC&D, and Jayuya Agri Business Incubator. Rebecca Perez will coordinate.
Develop a Power Point Presentation on the project for presentation to the Puerto Rico Secretary of Agriculture and other pork producers groups. Steven Welker, El Atlantico RC&D will coordinate.
Strategic Plans for the pork producers’ nucleus will be developed in cooperation with El Atlantico RC&D who has extensive experience assisting new organizations to write their first strategic plans.
Provide a detailed description of project design, research methods and materials, training activities. Include site information (describe experiment station research plots, private farm, non-profit demonstration farm, training facilities etc.)
Statistical analysis of the Marketing Survey data was completed and published in Spanish in cooperation with University of Puerto Rico – Mayaguez. It is currently being used as a guide for other meat producer groups on the island in identifying marketing opportunities and integrated sustainable development. El Atlantico RC&D has already met with directors of a beef producers group containing an additional 25 farmers.
The Analysis was reviewed page by page for the farmer group, and local mayors from Jayuya and Utuado municipalities. These two municipalities contain the bulk of the affected farmers. Puerto Rico is arranged by municipalities that resemble incorporated townships more than they do counties. Additional presentations of the findings were made for the El Atlantico RC&D and Department of Agriculture.
The visit to Missouri included 4 participants. University of Missouri Extension Service coordinated the tour with Mountain View Pork, producer stops, and other slaughter facilities. The visit helped educate the farmers in the aspects of operating and planning a farmer owned facility.
The Consultant identified during the Missouri visit is Martin Ward. He has 25+ years experience and education meat facilities and their operation. His visit will be done during March-April 2007 and paid for by USDA Rural Development. The scope of the SARE project needed to be expanded on and was subsequently funded by RD.
A Power Point presentation was developed and used in conjunction with the presentations to the Pork Producers group and El Atlantico RC&D in Spanish.
Strategic plan was developed for the Pork Producers group. Planning meetings are being held on an annual basis. This is a group that was generally moving without direction prior to receiving this SARE grant. SARE provided the initial seed money to develop their ideas and identify a strategy as to what they need to address their environmental and marketing sustainability issues.
Educational & Outreach Activities
Presentations of the findings of both the marketing study and trip report were made to:
Pork Producers Group
Beef Producers Group
Puerto Rico Department of Agriculture
El Atlantico Resource Conservation and Development
El Caribe Resource Conservation and Development
Jayuya AgriBusiness Incubator
The Power Point presentation and Marketing Analysis will be submitted as hard copy with the final project.
The information collected during this study was used in a subsequent grant application to USDA Rural Development to expand on the original project. This application was funded by RD in fall of 2006 for $30,500 through the Rural Business Enterprise Grant (RBEG).
This second project will pay for a feasibility study and business plan for a centralized finishing facility and slaughter facility. RD is also encouraging the farmers to apply for a Value Added Producer grant or a second RBEG within the next year.
Greater direct contact between the farmers and the lechon restaurants have been established. The restaurants have become their customers rather than the slaughter facilities. More pork is already being custom slaughtered at different weights for direct sale to the restaurants.
The pork producers have also been working with different BBQ sauces in cooperation with the Jayuya AgriBusiness Incubator. This is to market a pulled pork product that was not known in Puerto Rico in the past.
This project has contributed greatly to alternative strategies to the livestock industries in Puerto Rico. It has truely resulted in more thinking “outside the box”. Particularly in moving finishing livestock out of the mountains for environmental reasons and integrating marketing concepts to reach new markets.
This project was a bit to extensive for a SARE grant of $10,000, but it provided excellent seed money to more intensively develop the concepts that have led to an additional $30,500 of funding from USDA Rural Development.
RD has also encouraged the Producers to submit additional applications. The $30,500 was simply the amount of unappropriated funds that they had available.
They particularly were impressed with how marketing and environmental concerns were address together in this project. Most livestock producers on the island have similar problems including poultry, beef, and pork producers.