The Jamaica Business Development Corporation (JBDC), in advancing its support for micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs), said it will drive growth for clients through a number of its programmes and projects being planned for roll-out this fiscal year.
Looking to expand revenues for approximately 500 of the over 3,000 clients it services annually, deputy CEO of the JBDC Harold Davis said that near US$1 million worth of investments have already been earmarked to bolster support for the sector across various areas.
“The JBDC is committed to having businesses within the sector expand their export reach as we want to see them going global and meeting international standards. This is directly aligned with the agency’s strategic goals which seeks to increase direct access for about 500 of our clients to local and international markets, delivering for them five per cent sales growth annually over the next three years.
“In driving new business opportunities along industry value chains, we are also seeking to establish at least two industry specific incubators by 2023,” he said at the entity’s annual Breakfast with the CEO event held last week.
Following the launch of its essential oil incubator earlier this year, the agency said it is now pushing to onboard a similar agro-processing unit by July.
“We have a robust programme this year focused on agro-processing. We have recognised from collaborative research that there is significant demand for our local agricultural products, not just basic items from the farms such as yam and banana but those value-added/agro-processed derivatives,” he told the Jamaica Observer in an interview earlier this week.
Piloted under the theme ‘Business is Good: Jamaica-Agro to the World’, the agency’s thrust towards exploiting agro-processing opportunities also seeks to expose local businesses to emerging global demands. The deputy CEO said that outside of the usual United States, United Kingdom and Canadian markets, significant interest is also being picked up from countries as a far as the Middle East.“We’re currently seeing some first level interest from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) stemming from the expo held there earlier this year. They have expressed some significant interest in secondary agro-processed products including sauces, jams, jellies and other finished goods. We are very excited about this as this is a market that remains largely untapped in Jamaica,” Davis also said to the Business Observer.
“This is something that we are now moving to get people to find out about, especially regarding the level of demand, the volumes needed, the average price points of goods and the type of products that can be delivered from our client groups as we point them to opportunities aimed at servicing those demands,” he added.
The soon to be rolled out agro-processing incubator, which is being jointly funded through private partnerships, will act as an intermediary for MSMEs which will channel their products through JBDC’s Jamaica Harvest brand. The Jamaica Harvest lines presently carries items including Scotch bonnet flakes, peanut brittles, along with cassava, sweet potato and breadfruit flours, among other gourmet products.
“We will be doing a cluster approach where we group a number of these micro businesses under our brand to facilitate international market access which we believe will also yield real results for the enterprises. We will help them to put in the necessary technical specs to ensure that the products are of international standards,” Davis said.
Propelled by global supply chain challenges and the shortage of commodities globally following the Russia-Ukraine war, Davis also underscored the need for local businesses to take advantage of new opportunities as they pivot and strive for added growth.
“Though COVID-19 has disrupted the way we do business, disruption has the capacity to lead to innovation. Business is good but it is not business as usual, it is time for us to reimagine the way we support our entrepreneurs and the way we do entrepreneurship in Jamaica,” he stated.
Speaking at Business Dialogue Forum held by the agency on Monday, Marlene Porter, manager of sales and promotions at the Jamaica Promotions Corporation (Jampro), quoting statistics from as far back as 2014, confirmed that with gaps of over US$20 billion existing in the demand for Brand Jamaica products since that time, there remains vast opportunities for value-added products, particularly in the ready to eat organic food market.