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Minister of Commerce, Science and Technology, Phillip Paulwell has encouraged small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), to take advantage of available subsidised technical assistance, to enhance the development of their management and environmental systems.
He said this action would enable the businesses to compete more effectively in the global marketplace.
Citing the recent move by the European Union (EU) to make Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) certification mandatory for all suppliers exporting fresh produce and processed foods to EU countries, the Minister said this was “an indication of how important it is for local companies to implement and be guided by internationally recognised quality, food safety and environment standards, such as HACCP, ISO 9000 and ISO 14000”.
Mr. Paulwell was speaking today (February 22), at a public awareness and information session hosted by the Quality Jamaica Project, at the Knutsford Court Hotel in Kingston.
He told the audience that his Ministry’s primary objective when signing the technical co-operation agreement with the IDB, “was to boost the international competitiveness of SMEs by encouraging the implementation of these quality systems among them”.
“We envisaged that by employing ISO 9000 and 14000 HACCP systems, SMEs would be able to improve the quality of their products and services and gain access to overseas markets. Time and time again we have seen that businesses that have quality management systems in place operate more efficiently, are able to cut production time and to a great extent, save money,” the Minister said.
In his capacity as representative for the IDB, Oscar Spencer told the gathering that, “given the increasingly competitive environment in which Jamaican SMEs operate, the activities financed under this project could not have come at a better time”.
Mr. Spencer said the competitiveness of SMEs in Jamaica and the wider Caribbean region was now being determined by a firm’s ability to deliver high quality goods and services on time, and at competitive prices, while also meeting a range of international standards required to access international markets.
“Management system standards related to quality and environment are foremost among these and include the ISO 9000 and 14000,” he explained, adding that other standards related to safety were also growing in importance.
According to the IDB representative, the Bank was currently financing some 12 projects to improve management and environment systems in Latin America and the Caribbean at a cost of US$8 million.
Citing the Quality Jamaica Project, he said the programme would allow the Bureau of Standards and the IDB “to jointly support activities that seek to sensitise SMEs to the importance of HACCP and ISO certification, and provide the necessary training on systems, procedures, and practices for the successful implementation of the HACCP and ISO”.
Through the Project, Mr. Spencer said SMEs interested in investing in implementing HACCP and ISO standards could access grant funding totalling US$3,750 each. The grant funds would match the resources that SMEs are willing to invest.
He further explained that the Project would support a process that would enable the Bureau of Standards Jamaica to become an internationally recognised certification body for ISO and HACCP systems in Jamaica. To date, he said 500 persons have been trained from a range of SMEs in Jamaica.
With the subsidies being provided under the project, Minister Paulwell told the audience that it would cost an SME just US$5,000, down from US$13,000 to access technical assistance for the development and implementation of its quality management system.
This, he said, was less than one fifth of the market price for such services, which could range from US$30,000 to US$50,000 through private quality consulting firms.
The Quality Jamaica Project is a joint venture programme between the Commerce, Science and Technology Ministry and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), and is aimed at providing training, at a subsided cost, to SMEs in quality management and environmental management systems, including ISO certification and internal audit processes.
The Project, which was established in 2002 with the Bureau of Standards assigned the role of being the implementing arm, has grant funding in the sum of US$1.4 million from the IDB. The Project is one of a cluster of 13 such projects from 10 countries earmarked for the Latin American and Caribbean region, with Jamaica being the sole English-speaking territory to receive support.