An agency of the Ministry of Industry, Investment & Commerce, the JBDC is Jamaica’s premier business development organisation working collaboratively with government, private sector, as well as, academic, research and international communities.



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Against the backdrop of a widening trade deficit, vice-president of the Jamaica Manufacturers and Exporters Association (JMEA) Andrew Wildish is supporting calls for a greater focus on exports, though admitting to difficulties in achieving this objective.

Speaking at this week’s Jamaica Business Development Corporation (JBDC) Business Dialogue Forum themed, ‘Homegrown: reducing imports, increasing exports’, the JMEA executive said that even as getting export to an ideal level often proves to be a really difficult undertaking, especially for smaller businesses — it is something the country must do.

“Export is a hard one, it is one of those areas that mainly the large conglomerates in Jamaica have done well. The products we manufacture do well in exports and exporting products from Jamaica is essential for growth, but it’s also something at which entrepreneurs have to work very hard in terms of developing export markets and getting their products out,” he said.

“Right now Jamaica exports about one dollar for every four dollars that we import through Caricom, so there really has to be a focus by the manufacturing sector to grow these exports,” he added.

According to the half-year trade data report by the Statistical Institute of Jamaica (Statin), for the first six months of this year total imports reached US$3.8 billion and exports US$801 million. This represents a trade deficit totalling US$3 billion — more than a billion above that recorded for the same period last year. Imports from Caricom for the period were valued at US$304 million as exports neared US$54 million.

Harold Davis, deputy chief executive officer (CEO) of the JBDC, in moderating the forum, said that with the trade deficit heading in the wrong direction, there was the need for an immediate reversal.

Wildish, who is also the general manager of Grace Foods Processors NALCAN — the merged operation of its manufacturing and canning divisions, further said that his company, which also ranks high on the list of local exporters, is also looking to further double down on export, pushing to increase its current percentage of export revenues from 25 per cent to 50 per cent in the next few years. In recent times other large conglomerates such as Seprod and Wisynco have also indicated their own intent to increase the export side of their business.

“Exporting to any market requires that you have a product that is first accepted in your market,” Wildish said, noting that the intended goods or services must also be able to meet certain quality requirements factoring acceptable price points, correct packaging and product demand among a raft of other regulatory standards.

He, however, said the JMEA, in working with small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to build out a framework and to boost export capacity, has moved to design a number of programmes and initiatives aimed at identifying and connecting businesses with distributors across different regions while also introducing and exposing them to large retailers such as Amazon and other e-commerce opportunities.

He also said that with a vast majority of entrepreneurs first focused on exporting to the US and UK, which usually have huge barriers to entrance and greater number of hurdles to get into their markets, there has become a greater need for companies to first engage Caricom markets, as they take advantage of existing trade deals and similar taste profiles shared with our closer Caribbean counterparts.

For Ethnie Miller-Simpson, chairman of the Women Entrepreneurs Network of the Caribbean (WENC), while there is a necessity to increase the flow of exports to compete with current levels of imports, there is also an important need for the full ecosystem to be properly built out to effectively deliver on the objective.

Among her suggestions is that the model is sustainable, with the country able to feed itself after exporting. She further underscored the need for Government to make certain there is an accommodating national land policy to guide production and land ownership among other matters, as well as the provision of diversified financing options to entice and fund emerging opportunities for smaller exporters.



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