JIS News

Dr. Marshall McGowan Hall will be among the 136 Jamaicans who will be recognised for their contribution to nation building, at the 2010 National Honours and Awards Ceremony at King’s House on Heroes Day (October 18).
Dr. Hall is one of five persons being conferred with the Order of Jamaica (OJ), the country’s fifth highest national honour, for service to the public and contribution to the fields of agriculture, industry, and education.
“I have had a number of careers, and found them very rewarding and exciting,” Dr. Hall tells JIS News, as he recounts the many hats he has worn over the years, including member of the Public Utilities Commission, Executive Chairman of Jamaica Public Service (JPS) Company and Chairman of the National Development Bank and Jamaica Development Bank.
Dr. Hall is renowned for being instrumental in the development of the banana export industry. It all began when he joined Jamaica Producers Group (JPG) in 1979 following a 5-year tenure as Executive Chairman of the JPS. He recalls that in 1980, Hurricane Allen all but destroyed the banana industry, bringing exports to a halt.
“Prior to that, the banana business was really a small famer business entirely. Insurance coverage was not adequate and so we put together with the Government of Jamaica, a programme to resuscitate the banana industry,” he explains.
Jamaica Producers Group, the Jamaican Government and Fyffes Plc entered into a joint venture agreement to increase production at Eastern Banana Estates Limited, St. Thomas, and Victoria Banana Company Limited, Clarendon. This resulted in an ownership regime of JPG 55 per cent; GOJ five per cent; and Fyffes 40 per cent.
The three banana estates under the JPG became the backbone of the banana export sector, from 1983 to 2006 when Jamaica stopped exporting the crop.
“They (the estates) eventually were responsible for as much as 90 per cent of all Jamaican banana exports. That was a dramatic change in the banana business. It brought JP into a major banana producer. Prior to that JPG was primarily a purchaser of bananas and an importer of bananas into the UK. With those changes we became the premier banana producer in Jamaica,” he says.
Dr. Hall notes that as JPG and the government sought to bring the banana industry back to life, the company increased exports of other products from Jamaica to the UK. These included ethnic crops such as yams, sweet potato, and pumpkin. Simultaneously, there was further diversification into the manufacturing of fresh juices, with citrus imported from Jamaica. The company also bottled fresh juices in Wales and Holland.
JPG later closed its banana import business in the UK and Wales, and currently mainly continues its juice manufacturing operation in Holland, serving that country and nearby countries such as Belgium and Germany. The company is now the largest fresh juice manufacturer in Holland.
“At the same time, back in Jamaica, we diversified and developed our banana and plantain chips line – we are the largest manufacturers of banana chips in Jamaica (St. Mary’s). We have broadened into other products (such as sweet potato and cassava, and breadfruit) and we are looking to push out into the rest of the world,” Dr. Hall says.
Before Jamaica Producers, where he was Group Managing Director up to 2007, Dr. Hall made his mark as a professor at Washington University in 1971, after completing his doctorate at the University of Wisconsin.
He was also a visiting professor at Makerere University in Uganda, after which he returned to Jamaica to become the first head of the Department of Management Studies at the University of the West Indies. It was during the period that he became a consultant to the government in a number of areas, up to 1979.
Born in Kingston in 1934, Dr. Hall describes his childhood as a “very good” one. The Kingston College alumnus, who grew up in Vineyard Town, remembers being part of a family in which education was priority.
“My parents instilled in us a desire for education and that was very important in our household,” he says.
Pursuing an academic career, seemed very natural to him, he said, and the shift into the world of industry, agriculture and business “in a sense” surprised him, because that was not his initial focus.
“But, what I found early on that the discipline that I had had in economics served me well, in terms of how one looks at problems. I have always sought to succeed. Success is very important to me,” Dr. Hall states, adding that the desire to succeed and excel has propelled him to continue to make invaluable contributions to his country.
He describes himself as having been “very fortunate” to serve his country.