The Jamaica Business Development Corporation (JBDC) remains committed to enabling agrobusinesses in Jamaica to effectively engage in international markets.
Speaking at the ‘JBDC Business Dialogue Forum’ on Monday (April 25), Deputy Chief Executive Officer at the JBDC, Harold Davis, said that agriculture plays a vital role in the Jamaican economy.
Referencing the Ukraine and Russian war that has caused a major disruption in shipping, Mr. Davis said that “it is important for us, now more than ever, to look at our approach to agriculture and agrobusinesses. The imperative has now been heightened for us as Jamaicans to approach the export market with new lenses”.
He added that agriculture and agrobusiness for Jamaica represents a significant export potential.
Chief Executive Officer (CEO) at the JBDC Valerie Veira, shared that even though the company has responsibility for Micro, Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (MSMEs) in general, greater focus is being placed on the agro-industry for this fiscal year.
“This year, we have a specific focus to do more work with businesses in the agro sector. It has become more crucial for us to focus our attention here based on the changes that have taken place in the economy. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, we had to pivot with a purpose to ensure that we identify opportunities for development in the value chain,” said the CEO.
Ms. Veira said that technology, too, plays a crucial role in advancing the sector.
She explained that “41 per cent of the lands in Jamaica are suited for agriculture. However, it is by tying innovation to technology that the agricultural landscape will expand even more, and we want to look at all those possibilities”.
“Our main responsibility is for the development of the MSME sector, and we want to identify those niches in this large industry for our clients to make their marks. We want to identify along the value chain, those opportunities for development,” she continued.
Coordinator of MSMEs Development at the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), Lisa Harding, underscored the importance of the role that agriculture plays, especially for those living in rural areas.
“Agriculture contributes significantly to economic growth. The sector provides employment for many as well as it promotes diversification and favorably impacts import substitution,” she added.
Notwithstanding the full potential of agribusiness to contribute to poverty reduction and economic transformation, Ms. Harding further alluded to the fact that it remains largely unexploited.
“Like many MSMEs, agro-processors face numerous challenges that impact their competitiveness. These challenges include limited access to standard and modern compliant processing facilities and high transportation costs,” she explained.
Ms. Harding expressed that a multi-partner approach is needed to tackle the impediments which affect the ability of the sector to go global.
Manager for Sales and Promotions, Agribusiness, at the Jamaica Promotions Corporation (JAMPRO) Marlene Porter, said that the corporation is pleased to work with the JBDC in fulfilling the global demand for brand Jamaica through export.
Ms. Porter said “there is a strong global demand for Jamaica-branded products. We have seen where Jamaican-made products are among the world’s most identifiable brands. The work that we have been doing across the various sectors, tourism, music, etc., has laid the foundation for us. We, therefore, want to position ourselves to take advantage of global opportunities; however, we must ensure that our products remain protected in the global space”.
She pointed out the importance of the private sector and government working together to take advantage of the opportunities that are presented.