JIS News

Deputy President of Jamaica Trade and Invest (JTI), Lisa Bell, has stressed the importance of significant investments in agriculture, particularly export-driven, if the sector is to contribute meaningfully to advancing Jamaica’s economic development.
As part of the thrust, she said, focus must be placed on non-traditional products in light of the erosion of preferential markets in Europe for traditional export crops such as banana and sugar cane.
Ms. Bell, who was speaking at the recent launch of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) 2009 World Investment Report at the JTI’s New Kingston offices, pointed out that agriculture is a “specialised economic activity” for small developing nations like Jamaica and was a “major driver” of employment and can provide foreign exchange earnings from exports.
She noted that the National Export Strategy, jointly developed by the JTI and the Jamaica Exporters’ Association (JEA), outlines three specific areas capable of fortifying Jamaica’s global competitive advantage, and enhancing foreign exchange earnings. These are: agro-processing, coffee, and aquaculture.
Stating that agro-processing presents “huge opportunities” for Jamaica, Ms. Bell explained that the Export Strategy identifies specific strengths in this area, which should be exploited, including brand quality, maximising on reputation of products such as herbs and jerk seasonings.
“There is a diverse product range that includes unique products that are indigenous to Jamaica (and) there are world-class entities already operating in the sector. There are support programmes already in place to support development of those sectors, as well as… mechanisms… to ensure that the products remain at a high value, and (are) competitive,” she outlined.
On the flip side, Ms. Bell highlighted what she described as “significant weaknesses” in the sector, which need to be addressed, and these include inconsistent supply of domestic raw materials; limited and insufficient innovation in technology and product development; limited number of Jamaican companies understanding global best practices; and lack of Intellectual Property protection.
She further lamented “weak linkages” in research and development in determining demand, pointing out that what is produced is not necessarily always what the customer wants. In this regard, she stressed the need to “continue to have that communication flow open,” between stakeholders to ensure that clients’ needs are met.
Other areas, she said, which can assist in advancing Jamaica’s position, include: technology and innovation to improve manufacturing methodologies, efficiency and output, thereby enhancing competitiveness; incorporation of modern farming practices to replace the traditional methods; efficient energy production; and investments in marketing and human capital.
Ms. Bell also mentioned the need to improve product delivery and turnaround time, noting that Jamaica remains uncompetitive in moving its products to market.
“Jamaica currently has a 22-day turnaround time in moving a product to market. Our nearest competitor on the global scale is Panama, who moves a product in nine days, and Singapore that moves it in five days. So it’s not only looking at the development of the product… but investments are going to be critical in the trade facilitation area if we are going to be competitive,” she stated.

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