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Jamaica’s trade deficit narrowed by 0.3 per cent at the start of the year to US$401 million.

The figure represents a US$1.2 million improvement over the US$402.2 million recorded for the corresponding period in January 2012.

In terms of trade within the CARICOM region, the deficit was reduced by US$11.2 million or 18 per cent to US$51 million, down from US$62.2 million over the comparative period last year.

Minister of Industry Investment and Commerce, Hon. Anthony Hylton, in welcoming the good news, hailed the “hardworking and committed exporters in this country who continue to take Brand Jamaica to the world”.

He noted that while exports have increased, “we are still not out of the woods, still needing to make a quantum leap in the level of our exports if we are to get on track and further narrow our trade deficit.”

The Minister, who was addressing the launch of the Jamaica Exporters Association’s (JEA) National Exporters’ Month on Monday, June 3, at the Jamaica Pegasus hotel in New Kingston, stated that an export-led growth strategy, focused on diversification, is the only option for Jamaica, and will result in dynamic and sustainable development of the economy.

“In diversifying our exports, we must begin to seriously consider the untapped potential of our services sectors, which contribute approximately 70 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP),” he stated.

He pointed out that the recently finalised Services Strategy and Expansion Plan, developed by the Jamaica Coalition of Service Industries (JCSI) housed in JAMPRO, is testament of Government’s determination to explore opportunities and take advantage of new growth areas for exports.

These include Information Communication Technology (ICT), creative industries, professional services, logistics, medical and health and wellness tourism and offshore education.

The event saw eight companies being inducted into the JEA’s US Million Dollar Club having achieved US$1 million or more in sales last year.

Top achiever was Wray and Nephew Ltd. with exports of US$71 million, followed by GK Foods and Services Ltd., which was inducted in the US$50 Million Dollar Club.

Other awardees were: Carib Cement Ltd., US$16 million; Advanced Farms Technologies, US$6 million; Associated Manufacturers Ltd. and Jamaica Teas Ltd., US$5 million; Wisynco, US$3 million and Salada Foods, US$1 million.

JEA President, Andrew Collins, in congratulating the honourees, noted that exports is fundamental to reshaping the Jamaican economy and “everyone must be involved if we are to seriously expand the sector and earn our way to a prosperous future”.

He said that the annual celebration of exporters’ month, provides the opportunity to recognise and reward the achievements of the outstanding exporters, and to cultivate and motivate potential and existing exporters to become more active in the international market place.

“This month also allows us to focus attention on the contribution of the export sector to the economy and develop plans for a future of more export jobs and earnings,” he informed.

The launch included a showcase of export products as well as the impressive work of participants in the JEA’s recently launched ‘Income Generating Opportunities for Unemployed Young People’ project, which is being undertaken in collaboration with the St. Andrew Settlement in Majesty Gardens.

Exporters Month, under the theme: ‘Exporting is Everybody’s Business’, will include the annual Export Awards Banquet on June 11; and seminars in Kingston, Mandeville and Montego Bay on June 18, 20 and 25, respectively.

Contact: Andrea Braham