US$750,000 Project to Assist Micro-Businesses


Micro-businesses involved in craft and agro-processing are to benefit from a US$750,000 project, which will be implemented over the next three years by the Jamaica Business Development Centre (JBDC).
A total of 14 micro-business co-operatives or networks in the gift and craft and agro-processing sectors have been selected to participate in the initiative called the Productive Integration of Micro-Businesses in Jamaica Project. The project, which is being funded by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), will focus on improving the competitiveness of micro businesses across Jamaica.
Speaking at a media launch of the project yesterday (December 7), at the JBDC’s Camp Road offices, Executive Director, Harold Davis explained that the productive integration model would encourage and foster collaboration among micro-businesses, so that these enterprises could improve the quality and standards of their products to better take advantage of available economic benefits and markets here and abroad.
He said that the project would target micro-businesses involved in the craft and gift sector and agro-processing, with specific focus on fermented, dehydrated and confectionery products.
“There is a huge demand for our locally made and locally designed products, locally and internationally, as can be confirmed by our shops at the airports. These are fast movers,” Mr. Davis noted, citing a success story of a tamarind ball producer who has reaped success through the JBDC’s intervention.
“Now she’s on our top 10 list of income earners from our clients at JBDC’s Things Jamaican (stores). That’s significant, tremendously significant. So, she’s moving huge volumes of these tamarind balls now. It’s not only because she did a good product, we also assisted her to develop appropriate, attractive commercially-ready packaging solutions. We made sure that her costing, her pricing of her product was right. We made sure that her business practices were also right,” he said.
According to the Executive Director, the project would have four components. The first component would strengthen the co-operation between micro and small businesses. “And what we have done is, we’ve identified the groups across the island that have been working together.to make sure that we deliver,” he explained.
The second component would inculcate appropriate technical assistance in areas such as design and technical food processing to enhance the quality and value of the products. “So, a tremendous amount of effort is being placed by this programme in providing that technical assistance on the ground to these groups, to make sure that the new and innovative products that are developed, are developed to the right international standards, and are developed with attractive and commercially viable packaging solutions as well,” Mr. Davis said.
He said that the JBDC would be partnering closely with the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA), Scientific Research Council (SRC) and Bureau of Standards Jamaica, to ensure international standards.
As a third component, the Tourism Product Development Company (TPDCo) and Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI) would partner with the JBDC in providing training for the programme, Mr. Davis outlined.
Dissemination of information, the fourth component, would seek replication of the model. “We want several types of productive integration. We believe that this model will work and will be successful, and that we will be able to replicate it across the island. To do this, we have some partners that have signed on with us – RADA, SRC, TPDCo, Jamaica Intellectual Property Office (JIPO) and the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA,” he said.
“We honestly believe that we have a formula for success. From the initial signs that we have had from our initial interventions, we see that this is a project that will work,” Mr. Davis argued, adding that by 2009, “some real tangible results will be available.”
In the meantime, Carina Cockburn, Multi-lateral Investment Fund (MIF) consultant with the IDB, endorsed the concept of productive integration as something that would make a real impact in the micro-sector and could be replicated in many other areas of the economy.
“We want to see small and micro entrepreneurs having greater access to economic benefits, and this is one way of making sure that they do so, and the MIF wants to support anything like that,” she said.
“In fact, we intend to partner with JBDC on a number of other projects. I’m looking forward to a more productive working relationship and to the outcome of this process,” she added.
Chief Executive Officer of the JBDC, Valrie Veira, affirmed the company’s commitment to putting Jamaican products on the table that were “beyond the expectations of the market.”
Expressing enthusiasm about starting “the journey,” Miss Veira assured that the JBDC would reinforce quality as it went into the field to assist micro-business owners. “We’re about sustainable, continuous development,” she stressed.

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