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Minister of Finance and the Public Service, Hon. Audley Shaw, has proposed food processing as an alternative to the disabled bauxite/alumina industry as a major foreign exchange earner.
“The implosion we have had with the bauxite industry is a wake up call for all of us,” Mr. Shaw told Tuesday night’s first in a series of Post Budget Town Hall Meetings being staged by the Government, at the Golf View Hotel, Mandeville in Manchester.
“Alternative replacement industries must now be found. One of them that excites me quite a bit, and I have been talking to the Prime Minister and the Minister of Industry, Investments and Commerce about it, applies to this parish (Manchester) in a very, very significant way,” Mr. Shaw, who represents North East Manchester in the House of Representatives, said.
“We have got to find a way in the alternatives that we will look at, to look at the whole processed foods industry. It is an industry that is just waiting to multiply. It is an industry that has the capacity for growth, that we are not even able to adequately measure,” he added.
Mr. Shaw said that he has been told by people in the industry that, with help with retooling and assistance for others to come on board, in a few years exports of processed foods could reach, at least, ten times what is now being exported.
“We could start by exporting just four times more, which would move us from US$250 million to US$1 billion per year, because the market is there,” the Minister said.
“We have a Jamaican diaspora out there that is hungry for our ethnic food. The diaspora is as big as the population of Jamaica, and we have the wider diaspora of the Caribbean out there. Millions of people, and they can’t get enough of what we are producing,” Mr. Shaw explained.
He noted that green house technology was already available in Christiana (Manchester), but needed to be expanded and appropriate technology applied to the processing of foods, as well.
Mr. Shaw ‘s pronouncements were greeted with loud cheers by the large crowd which attended the Town Hall Meeting, which kicked off the Government’s series of public meetings to discuss the 2009/10 Budget and its implications with the public.