Business

Canadians seek investment opportunities in Jamaica

BY KARENA BENNETT Business reporter bennettk@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, August 10, 2014    

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A group of Canadians visited Jamaica last week exploring investment opportunities in the agriculture, energy, tourism, and housing sectors.

"We want to create jobs in the island and address some of the energy challenges that Jamaica is facing," said Senator Don Meredith, a member of the group that arrived in the island on August 1.

In addition to visiting the Denbigh Agricultural, Industrial and Food Show in Clarendon over the Emancipation weekend, the group met with various government bodies last week to discuss investment options.

Senator Meredith said one member of the group spoke of the possibility of investing $200 million in a potential energy project.

"If Jamaica can solve this energy problem, manufacturing jobs will come," Meredith told the Jamaica Observer last week at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel in New Kingston.

He said members of the group are currently in trade discussions with Lasco Distributors Limited and National Bakery to have both companies' products distributed in North America.

"There are businesses in Canada that have products that they would like to come to Jamaica, and businesses here that would like to go into North America... but they need a partner," Meredith told Sunday Finance. "One of the companies that came down with us has that kind of network."

Last year, Caricom and Canadian officials entered talks for a deal to replace the Caribbean-Canada Trade Agreement, a preferential arrangement under which most regional items enjoyed duty-free access to the Canadian market.

However, negotiations broke down due to a confluence of sticking points, including issues surrounding market access. The result was that the parties received a short-term extension of the existing arrangement.

Caricom was given a deadline of June 30 this year to reach an agreement with Canada. However, the regional grouping missed that deadline, which sparked fear that Jamaica would be required to pay tariffs on goods entering and exiting the market.

"Canada is seeking trade negotiations with Jamaica," Meredith said, adding that it is important for the officials to look at the economic benefits for both countries.

"Jobs are being created, GDP is growing in both countries and the quality of life is improved for those individuals who are living in poverty, which is essential to growth in any country," he said.

Meanwhile, Yam Pudding -- a product highlighted at Denbigh -- has captured the interest of the Canadians.

"We hope to get that into the market as a new starch," Meredith said. He also made reference to the planned hotel at Denbigh.

"This will create a place where other sectors can be accommodated at the show ground every day instead of just three days," Meredith stated.

In July, Jamaica Agricultural Society (JAS) President Norman Grant announced plans to construct a 60-room hotel at Denbigh, a property Finsac held a lien on up until late June when the lending agency agreed to settle the JAS' $80 million debt for the original amount of $7.5 million.

The JAS was granted a loan of $7.5 million from Finsac in 1994, which attracted a whopping $72.5 million in interest payments over the years.

Meredith added that the hotel will be beneficial to local farmers while providing an opportunity for other producers to showcase their projects.

The Canadian officials are also seeking negotiations with the Jamaica Exporters' Association.

"We look forward to doing this again in the future, not just to talk about opportunities, but to execute work on these opportunities," Senator Meredith said.

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