Alleviating Shortage of Cement, Basic Food Items and Regulating Scrap Metal Trade Dominated Activities of Industry Ministry


The Ministry of Industry, Investment and Commerce focused primarily on alleviating the problems that arose from the shortage of cement, basic food commodities such as flour and rice and the scrap metal operations.
Attention was also given to the continued development of the small and medium-sized sector.
In addressing the cement shortage, agreements were made in September, for local cement importers to benefit from a reduction on the cess levied by the Port Authority of Jamaica to inspect each tonne of the product.
The cess, which would be reduced from US$5 to US$1 until March 31, 2008, would allow importers to bring more cement into the island.
Minister of Industry, Investment and Commerce, Karl Samuda said the US$5 cess posed a serious challenge for importers of the commodity noting that “when you consider the increased cost of freight from China, and the devaluation. and warehouse cost, they found it very hard to make a profit. So, they were reluctant to import cement and so Cabinet and the Port Authority have agreed .to reduce the cess from US$5 to US$1, which I understand will make a significant difference and enable the importers to go ahead, because they would be assured of some margins.”
By October, plans were finalized for the delivery of some 5,000 tonnes of cement from Cuba into the island to ease the shortage.
This followed the visit of a team consisting of representatives from the Ministry, the Airports Authority of Jamaica and the Port Authority of Jamaica to Cuba to finalize arrangements for the importation of some 40,000 tonnes of cement, which would arrive into the island on a phased basis.
In making the announcement, Minister Samuda pointed out that a regular supply of 5,000 tonnes of cement should be arriving from Cuba each month totaling the 40,000 tonnes promised.
Meanwhile, to avert possible shortage and to meet the country’s increasing demand for rice in the aftermath of Hurricane Dean, the government imported some 4,000 metric tonnes of rice from Louisiana in the United States in late September.
The Ministry in November, put measures in place to address the scrap metal trade in light of the widespread theft of key private and public sector infrastructure. Early in the month, the Trade (Scrap Metal) Regulations 2007 was tabled to monitor and regulate the country’s scrap metal trade.
Minister Samuda outlined that the provisions under the Regulations would include, among other things, fines and penalties for breaches; the licensing of legitimate traders; and the introduction of inspectors to monitor the transporting of scrap metal.
He noted that while there are legitimate players in the industry, it had become necessary for the government to introduce guidelines, as several businesses had reported million-dollar losses as a result of the theft of valuable metals such as telecommunication bridges, manhole covers, railway lines, power lines and conveyor systems.
Another initiative that the Commerce Ministry undertook was fostering and developing the small and medium-sized enterprises.
To this end, the Private Sector Development Programme (PSDP), a unit of the Jamaica Trade and Invest, pledged to provide $200 million in assistance to micro, small and medium-sized businesses, which operate in clusters.
The assistance would be provided to businesses in the targeted sectors of creative industries, tourism, agribusiness and services.
Deputy Programme Manager for the PSDP, Eleanor Henry, said that the organization, earlier this year, adopted a Cluster Sector Initiative as a means of increasing the reach and impact of its funding.
The cluster approach, she said, “is a tried and proven mechanism that works to foster collaboration among various organizations to achieve and establish competitive advantages in local and global markets.”
Meanwhile, the Jamaica Business Development Centre (JBDC) implemented the Productive Integration of Micro-Businesses in Jamaica Project to assist micro-businesses in Jamaica.
The project valued at US$750,000 will be implemented over the next three years and include 14 micro-business co-operatives or networks in the gift and craft and agro-processing sectors.
Aimed at improving the competitiveness of micro businesses across Jamaica, the project would also encourage and foster collaboration among micro-businesses, so that these enterprises could improve the quality and standards of their products to better take advantage of available economic benefits and markets here and abroad.
Additionally, the Jamaica Exporters’ Association (JEA) unveiled intellectual property marks to protect micro, small, and medium producers of goods and services for export.
The certification and collective marks are aimed at providing the entities with intellectual property protection in the global marketplace. They are expected to go a far way in safeguarding the integrity of authentically produced Jamaican goods and services by countering piracy and counterfeiting, as well as ensuring that producers and exporters secure the benefits which can accrue to them.

JIS Social