JIS News

Story Highlights

  • The programme aims to create an export platform framework that facilitates exchange between suppliers and purchasers in Jamaica and overseas.
  • This is to be achieved through, among other things, local participants receiving training in and exposure to international business practices.
  • Minister Clarke says the programme is slated to be rolled out “within weeks”.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries will shortly embark on a programme aimed at increasing and safeguarding the export of Jamaica’s non-traditional agricultural produce and products.

The programme, which will target local farmers and exporters, aims to create an export platform framework that facilitates exchange between suppliers and purchasers in Jamaica and overseas.

This is to be achieved through, among other things, local participants receiving training in and exposure to international business practices; training in marketing and negotiation skills; as well as product validation through participation in trade fairs and missions.

The programme, which Agriculture and Fisheries Minister, Hon. Roger Clarke, says has been used in other countries to successfully promote and expand exports, is being carried out under the Ministry’s Agricultural Competitiveness Programme (ACP), in collaboration with the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation in Agriculture (IICA).

Mr. Clarke says the programme is slated to be rolled out “within weeks”, adding that IICA representatives will be in the island to assist the Ministry in identifying and training farmers and existing and potential exporters, and thereafter, “taking them into the marketplace to liaise directly with buyers and distributors.”

The Minister made the announcement during his contribution to the 2014/15 Budget Debate in the House of Representatives on Wednesday, April 23, under the theme: ‘Continuing the Growth – Going for Export’.

In noting the “serious potential” for creating a niche in overseas markets which non-traditional produce and products such as yam, Irish and sweet potatoes, condiments, ginger, and poultry products have, Mr. Clarke said exportation of these items has “proceeded for years without any defined supporting structure from the State.”

He commended the local exporters who have built an infrastructure to purchase produce from farmers to, principally, ship to Jamaican Diaspora markets. The Minister noted, however, that, in many instances this effort was akin to “shooting in the dark.”

“Usually, the importer on the other side is, similarly, a consolidator who buys products from all over and sells to a distributor. The dynamics of the Diaspora market has now shifted, as most of our products are no longer positioned in ethnic markets, but in the mainstream,” he stated.

The Minister said, consequent on this, local exporters face considerable risk of non-payments, and, most times have no control over the fate of their shipments once these arrive at the designated destination.

The end result, he added, is that “we have been operating sub-optimally to our export potential.”

Hence the need, Mr. Clarke further said, for the government to create the export platform which would complement, among other things, the health certification system and pre-clearance facility currently in place.

Additionally, he suggested that it could prove beneficial if the government or Jamaica Exporters’ Association (JEA), consider the strategic placement of representatives in the country’s main export markets to coordinate the attendant logistics associated with exportation to keep track of shipments, thus ensuring payments to exporters.

As part of efforts to deal with this development, Mr. Clarke informed that the government, through the Ministry, has moved to establish links between buyers and distributors in the export markets, with exporters and farmers in Jamaica.

“ In fact, we are following strong interests from the Fresh Produce Consortium of the United Kingdom, whose representatives were in Jamaica two weeks ago to explore the possibilities of acquiring supplies of sweet potato.” the Minister informed.

The Consortium is an association of fresh produce importers whose members comprise 700 businesses, inclusive of retailers, distributors, importers, wholesalers, processors, packers, and food service companies, he explained.

“So already, we have identified some large farmers in our agro-parks who are now negotiating contracts with buyers in the Fresh Produce Consortium to supply sweet potato. We have gone further to source planting material for the variety of sweet potato required by the Consortium. Our pledge is to work with these farmers to ensure that they conform to good agricultural practices, so critical for exports to the United Kingdom,” the Minister added.