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  • The Coffee Industry Board (CIB) has stepped up measures to safeguard Jamaica’s world-renowned Blue Mountain Coffee brand against piracy.
  • This has resulted in, among other things, the local industry losing as much as approximately US$4 million in export earnings between 2013 and 2014.
  • Chief among the measures is the establishment of a Brand Infringement and Enforcement Task Force, comprising representatives of several State agencies, which will monitor and protect the Blue Mountain brand.

The Coffee Industry Board (CIB) has stepped up measures to safeguard Jamaica’s world-renowned Blue Mountain Coffee brand against piracy, which has resulted in, among other things, the local industry losing as much as approximately US$4 million in export earnings between 2013 and 2014.

Chief among the measures is the establishment of a Brand Infringement and Enforcement Task Force, comprising representatives of several State agencies, which will monitor and protect the Blue Mountain brand.

These include: the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF); Bureau of Standards Jamaica (BSJ); Jamaica Intellectual Property Office (JIPO); and Jamaica Customs Agency (JCA).

Details of the initiatives were outlined by CIB Chairman, Delano Franklyn, during a media briefing on Tuesday, November 25, at the agency’s head office in Kingston.

He said that the board has been receiving complaints regarding misuse of the Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee trademark; persons importing coffee, which is being passed off in the local and overseas markets as the authentic product; and of persons trading in Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee without a licence.

These infringements, Mr. Franklyn said, are negatively impacting the brand, with export earnings falling from approximately US$15 million in 2012, to US$11.7 million last year.

Mr. Franklyn said arising from meetings held with the key State agencies, the decision was taken to institute the measures to clamp down on infringements.

He advised that the CIB and Bureau of Standards Jamaica will ensure that the quality standards and proper packaging of Blue Mountain Coffee are maintained; the JCF will ensure that contraband coffee is removed from supermarket shelves and, where necessary, persons are arrested and prosecuted; while JIPO will ensure that all intellectual property rights are protected.

“In the coming days, members of the task force will be on the streets, visiting gift shops, supermarkets, craft markets, and other outlets to ensure that only authentic Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee is sold to consumers,” he informed.

Mr. Franklyn also advised that the CIB will be increasing random sampling of coffee to ensure that licencees, both locally and overseas, are adhering to the terms and conditions.

He said persons deemed in breach, who persist with illicit activities after they have been warned, “run the risk of either their licence being revoked or not being renewed.”

The Chairman said, overall, the task force will ensure that when breaches are detected and investigations completed, the necessary sanctions will be imposed. These, he said, could take the form of confiscation of goods, imposition of a fine ranging between $100,000 and $3 million, or a term of imprisonment, which could range between six and 12 months.

Additionally, Mr. Franklyn said, “We are also not ruling out the possibility of ‘naming and shaming’ the establishments where the illegal practice of ‘passing off’ coffee is taking place.”

Mr. Franklyn said the CIB has already supplied Jamaica Customs with a list of all licensed coffee dealers, who have been given permits to import by the board.

He warned that coffee coming through customs without the required permits will be confiscated and “the necessary actions will be applied where the perpetrators are identified.”

Mr. Franklyn also urged consumers to be vigilant in scrutinising product labelling, which, he said, should be detailed in outlining product content and origin, among other features.

Agency representatives on the task force, who were at the media briefing, gave their commitment to support the measures through increased vigilance and surveillance at points of sale and distribution, and ports of entry.

Coffee production has declined over a 10-year period from 500,000 boxes per annum to a current average output of approximately 180,000 boxes, due to disease and weather variations.

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