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President of the Jamaica Promotions Corporation (JAMPRO), Patricia Francis has emphasised that in order for the value of the country’s exports to increase significantly, there has to be a radical change in the kinds of products that are exported.
Expounding on this view in a JIS News interview, Mrs. Francis says: “Because if you think about what happens in a supermarket today in North America and Europe, jerk sauce is what they might call an ingredient and what people are buying are not ingredients. We (JAMPRO) have done a study to look at the buying patterns of people and people are buying ready, prepared meals. so they are buying the chicken seasoned up, or to some extent, people are just buying something that you can just stick in the microwave for three minutes and have a meal ready”.
Therefore, exports have to move in this direction as this is the only way that, “we are going to earn bigger dollars from what we have already established as being good products in the marketplace. So we have to work in conjunction with all of the various ministries and agencies, so that we can make these things happen, so that our private sector can be empowered to make more money”, she says.
The President notes that with the increasing barriers to trade, the country is now limited in the kinds of products that can be exported. “So everybody has to work as a team in order to make it happen. It is a chain of action which needs to take place in order for us to achieve this vision, and our vision is that by 2012 we should be able to have balanced trade, which is a very ambitious target, but we believe if we don’t set targets, we won’t work towards achieving those targets and this is something which nationally, we have to buy into and everybody has to see that they have a little role to play in making this a prosperous country,” she stresses.
With this team effort concept, Mrs. Francis says JAMPRO has, in the last year, been taking a new look at how the agency impacts on exports as it relates to the whole issue of export development.
“We have also been in discussion with the donor agencies about our approach to exports and we have been in consultation with the Jamaica Exporters Association (JEA), reviewing our national performance in the whole business of exports,” she informs. To this end, JAMPRO and the JEA have agreed on a National Export Strategy, which seeks to look at all of the elements that impact on performance exports, and to work in harmony with the various ministries and agencies that impact on performance.
“So if you look at it from a macro-economic point of view, there are certain issues that one would have to look at and how policy impacts on those issues, then you get to what they call the mesoeconomic factors, which have to do with internal operations of some of our Ministries and agencies, and how prepared they are to be able to facilitate the whole business world,” she points out. These include the customs department, and other agencies that interact with the private sector when dealing with exports, such as the Ministries of Health and Agriculture, and the Bureau of Standards Jamaica, among others.
Issues taken into account include the way in which these agencies function and if they are functioning in a facilitatory way.
Another key area that JAMPRO is focusing on is linkages, which Mrs. Francis says is vital to development. “Because we recognize that if we are able to get our products and our goods and services into, say, the tourism industry, we would become a supplier locally to international companies and whether we are dealing with Sandals and Superclubs, or we are dealing with the Ritz Carlton or the Riu, we want to be able to make sure that that product is also sold to them in the Bahamas and so on,” she explains.
“So, if you become a known supplier into these markets and you are a reliable supplier, then you become part of their global linkage.we are trying also to work with these establishments to see how we can push Jamaican products into their local domestic community and then to take the experience that they have with our local producers and become part of their global supply chain,” the President adds.
She cites development in the fast food industry as an example of local suppliers being successful, not just locally, but also in regional markets.
“Remember when they (fast food chains) first came in, we didn’t have all the systems in place to have our beef and our chicken approved to be purchased by these fast food companies and now today, Caribbean Broilers is providing products for some of these fast food chains in the rest of the Caribbean. Caribbean Broilers is also providing fish for Burger King, not only in Jamaica, but other countries as well. This is how we have to see things. We have to see Jamaica being the starting point for us to grow our businesses into the supply chains of these international companies across the world,” she asserts.
Mrs. Francis notes the success of Star Fish Oils, which has grown from a small enterprise to one which now packages products especially for the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Rose Hall, Montego Bay. “When we started working with Star Fish Oils, they were only at the Devon House annual fair and now they have the most fabulous products, which are part of the Ritz Carlton product offering,” she tells JIS News.
She also highlights Walkerswood, which JAMPRO has been working with for several years. “They were able to attract significant investment into their company to help them to expand and modernize to be able to meet the market needs that they have identified,” the President says.
“This is something that we see as the way forward. So we like to work with small entities that have good products and help them to grow their business and this is the only way that Jamaica is going to prosper,” Mrs. Francis argues.
Meanwhile, the Corporation recently launched the Caribbean Business Opportunities Service (CBOS), in partnership with sponsors Cable and Wireless Jamaica. The CBOS is an online service, which matches buyers and suppliers, features business opportunity alerts, a supplier directory, business matching and support services, as well as newsletters and event business briefings.
Speaking at the launch, Development Minister, Dr. Paul Robertson said CBOS would prepare the Caribbean business community to take advantage of the opportunities that would ensue from the region’s staging of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2007. He said the initiative provided an opportunity for buyers from across the globe to collaborate with suppliers in the Caribbean for mutual business benefits and would prove to be an advantageous tool to all suppliers of goods and services.
Mrs. Francis says that although the Service was created because of the cricket tournament, and because JAMPRO realized that most companies did not really know how to become part of the historic event, “what it has grown into is something even bigger than cricket 2007. Having designed it, all of a sudden we realized that the application is much wider than cricket”.
JAMPRO is therefore working with the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce, the JEA, and the Jamaica Business Development Centre (JBDC) to get local companies registered at: www.caribbeanbusiness.com.
“We believe that once this system is up and running, it can become a very powerful tool for the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME), because we are also throwing it open to our other Caribbean neighbours.
We are going to be making sure that our Jamaican entities can join forces with other Caribbean entities to take advantage of the procurement opportunities that exist. Cricket is only one, there are many more,” Mrs. Francis tells JIS News. The National Development Corporation of St. Lucia has already signed on as a partner.
“JAMPRO is putting its business opportunities on the site so that people can see what the services are that we are looking for, and it can be used by any other government entities for their own procurement as well,” she further informs.