JIS News

There are viable business opportunities to be derived by local micro, small and medium-sized enterprise (MSME) stakeholders, from the prevailing global economic recession.
This has been emphasised by Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Jamaica Business Development Corporation (JBDC), Ms. Valerie Veira.
“We (JBDC) recognise that there will be many gaps within local markets to fill, because things won’t be imported in quantities, as was the case previously. Hence, we must see where these gaps are and how our small producers can fill those, and maximise on them,” the CEO says, in an interview with JIS News.
To this end, she explains that the JDBC, the agency of the Ministry of Industry, Investment and Commerce, responsible for guiding MSME sector development, will be seeking to tailor and position its activities and programmes accordingly, for the 2010/11 administrative year. She cites the Ministries of Agriculture and Fisheries, and Tourism, as two of those whose activities the JBDC’s work programme will primarily seek to mirror, during the year.
“We can look and see where we can extract opportunities for our SME sector groups and work with it. So that, if the Ministry of Agriculture, for example, say that they are looking at mangoes, then we can say, ‘what products can our small producers extract?’ You can have canned mangoes or mango puree. Everybody is into bag juice…why can’t we use some of our local fruits to produce the same thing. Why are we not seeing Otaheite apple juice, for instance, in bags? It’s healthier for the children,” she notes, citing a client who produces Otaheite apple balls in a syrup base.
The same concept of opportunities holds true for Tourism, Ms. Veira points out. “If we have a group of producers within that sector…we can encourage them to have small producer complexes, where the tourist can come and see them producing. So that it becomes, not only income generating from a production standpoint, but it becomes a tourist attraction,” she reasons.
The JBDC’s pivotal role in guiding MSME stakeholder development, positions it as a conduit through which multilateral agency programme funding and assistance flows to this very vital sector. One such, Ms. Veira highlights, is the European Union-funded Private Sector Development Programme (PSDP), which winds down in a matter of months.
The PSDP is a Euro26.17 million five-year joint initiative between the Government of Jamaica and the European Union (EU), which was established to address specific challenges facing MSMEs and their support organisations. The JBDC’s collaborative input came by way of the Cluster Sector Initiative, which was aimed at stimulating new and innovative ways of doing business by encouraging partnerships and collaboration among stakeholders involved in specific activities or “value chains,” in which common interests are shared.
Ms. Veira informs JIS News that the JBDC had responsibility for five clusters: Jamaica Fashion and Apparel Cluster; Gift and Craft Cluster; Jamaica Wellness Cluster; Small Ruminants Cluster; and Egg Industry Cluster, adding that the agency worked with some 384 stakeholders. A total of $20 million, she adds, was allocated to each cluster to assist with administrative and developmental activities.
The extent of assistance which the JBDC provided to the stakeholders, included: training in the areas of business plan writing, record keeping and marketing; hosting of technical workshops focusing on patternmaking, training and collection development; technical assistance to execute product packaging, labelling and design; the facilitation of local and international trade show/expo participation; sourcing of special equipment; and formalisation of the clusters.
These actions, Ms. Veira points out, have resulted in the clusters securing extensive product exposure in both the local and international markets; more efficient and productive operations; proper labelling and packaging of their products; procurement of high-value contracts; and new contacts being established for suppliers and buyers.
She points out that activities under Fashion did “very well,” that “many good products” have come from Gift and Craft, which is “forever, a possibility for expansion,” and Wellness being an “umbrella that keeps expanding.” Regarding Small Ruminants, primarily goats and sheep, Ms. Veira says this area has “just blossomed.”
“During Christmas, I had lamb ham…there were lamb burger and sausages of top quality. So, I’m hoping that an off shoot of that will be where they use the skin to do craft,” she says.
The Egg Cluster is, perhaps, the area that has presented the greatest “surprise” for the JBDC, standing out as a beacon. Describing this area as “exciting,” Ms. Veira points out that the egg farmers are exporting eggs, and at Christmas they exported some 27,000 dozen to Trinidad. “Usually, it’s the other way around,” she informs.
Ms. Veira highlights several areas in fashion, where stakeholders could seek opportunities, including children’s clothing, leisure wear and swim suits. She says the JBDC will also be placing greater attention on the area of wellness, focusing particularly on the creation of new products using more local raw material, such as ginger, lemon grass and others.
Regarding the future of the Clusters, in the post-PSDP period, Ms. Veira assures that these are expected to continue, pointing out that they will become regular clients of the JBDC and have access to business development services, technical support, ongoing skills training, including industry specific training, and have the services offered by the JBDC’s Incubator and Resource Centre at their disposal.
“The JBDC will also support the clusters in their applications for funding from local and overseas donors, in order to ensure the sustainability of their operations and activities,” Ms. Veira tells JIS News.

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