Minister of Industry, Investment and Commerce, Hon. Anthony Hylton, is appealing to exporters to take advantage of the loan facility being offered by the National Export-Import Bank of Jamaica Limited (EX-IM Bank), to modernise and upgrade their plants.
He noted that through the EX-IM loan, business owners can borrow up to the Jamaican equivalent of US$500,000 for the purchase of equipment and to improve their facilities. They can also use the money for working capital, market research and debt financing.
The Minister, who was speaking at the recent opening of the National Export Strategy (NES) Engagement Series at the Jamaica Promotions Corporation's (JAMPRO) Business Auditorium in New Kingston, lamented that despite attempts to aggressively promote the product, only one localcompany has since taken up the bank's offer.
He said he was "willing to discuss problems related to the take-up of this loan with a view to address any specific issues".
Managing Director, EX-IM Bank, Lisa Bell, explained that there are a number of factors contributing to the lack of take-up of the loan facility.
She explained that among them, was the fact that companies are required to conduct an audit and many of them were still going through that process.
"Many of the companies, which need to improve their standards through training, capital expansion, and a number of different mechanisms, have to conduct an audit, which tells them exactly what they need to do. We've been tracking those companies and a number of the larger entities have been engaging the process aggressively. However, there are a number of smaller entities that are still going through that process," she informed.
Additionally, Miss Bell noted, a number of the companies had attempted to access grant financing through a regional organisation. “It was unsuccessful but we believe that they are going to put out a call again, and of course, grant funding is still cheaper than loan financing,” she remarked. She however assured that based on "my experience… in a few months I’m going to be overwhelmed with loan requests".
The modernisation of export facilities is even more imperative as Jamaica looks to become complaint with the United States Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). "We must therefore modernise our production facilities and the way we integrate our businesses into the global supply-chain," the Minister stated.
He informed that the Ministry is working closely with its stakeholders to implement a number of initiatives in response to the new law, which calls for heightened standards in the food processing industry.
"This holds significant implications for Jamaican exporters of food and other products to the US market, as all entities producing, handling, and transporting, importing, exporting or distributing food now have to meet heightened food safety requirements," he stated.
He however assured that “my understanding is that the collaboration with the sector and the US authorities is going very well."