JMEA expresses concerns after release of import-export figures

JMEA expresses concerns after release of import-export figures

…says they are particularly worried about Jamaica's import bill which it says poses a clear and present danger to food security

BY OBSERVER BUSINESS WRITER

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

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Following the issuing of the Statistical Institute of Jamaica (STATIN) report on the state of the country's imports and exports situation for the period January to September 2019, the Jamaica Manufacturers and Exporters Association (JMEA) has expressed its concerns at the figures.

The report showed imports to Jamaica increasing, with a corresponding decrease in exports coming from the island. (See figures on Page 4 of The Business Observer).

In an interview with this publication, president of the JMEA, Richard Pandohie stated that his organisation was particularly perturbed with this continued trend of imports increasing and exports decreasing.

“The STATIN report highlighted some areas of concern as the import figures clearly showed an increase in demand for consumer goods such as foods, cars, and appliances.

“The JMEA is mainly concerned with the 14.1% increase in imports of foods. This increase accounted for almost US$94 million worth of the increase in total imports.

“Jamaica's food import bill is now over US$900m and continues to grow at an alarming rate. The 14.1% increase in January – September 2019 is almost double the 7.67% increase in food imports in 2018,” the JMEA president informed.

Pandohie then stated that the high level and increasing dependence on food imports, coupled with the fragility of the domestic agriculture and agro-business sectors represents a clear and present danger to Jamaica's food security.

“We continue to implore the Government to work jointly with the private sector to create an environment to allow for retooling, use of research, and innovation to drive value added agro-processing to improve the quantity and quality of our food supply to reduce the unacceptable level of our food import bill,” Pandohie pleaded.

In the STATIN report, exports for January – September 2019 were valued at US$1.27 billion, a decrease of 9.1% ($124.5m) when compared to the same period in 2018. The main factors contributing to the decline were a decrease in exports of crude material and mineral fuels; these two categories together account for 76% of Jamaica's exports; therefore, any reduction in either would significantly impact the total export value.

“This is of great concern given the almost two-year closure of the Alpart/JISCO bauxite/alumina plant for retooling. This gap will be challenging to fill and will require a focused approach to find new markets and to innovate existing products to create new opportunities.

“On the positive side, the beverages and tobacco group increased the value of its exports by 16.8% to US$99.6 million. This group has experienced three years of consecutive growth, and we are confident that 2019 will be the fourth year of growth

“The food export group had a slight increase in the value of exports by 0.6% to US$161.3 million. In 2018, food exports experienced a decline of 3.75% compared to 2017; therefore, though small, the increase of 0.6% at least reverses the decline.”

In concluding his Business Observer interview, Pandohie then committed the JMEA to work with all parties concerned to reverse the country's high import bill.

“It is critical that as a nation, we recognise the fact that we cannot consume our way to economic growth and development.

“A high level of imports of consumer goods and the lack of investment in the productive sector will not create sustainable economic growth. The agricultural/agro-business and manufacturing sectors must be treated as a key pillar in the country's growth agenda. The JMEA has offered and stands ready to work alongside key stakeholders to make Jamaica grow again,” the JMEA president ended.


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