DESPITE calls for the country to produce its way out of the current financial crisis, the island's exporters say they have heard no talk of utilising the export sector to achieve this goal.
President of the Jamaica Exporters' Association (JEA) Andrew Collins has criticised what he described as the government's failure to recognise the value of the export sector in aiding the economic growth of the country.
"We are disappointed that, during his budget presentation, the minister of finance was surprisingly silent on the critical and urgent need for a growth strategy led by exports," he said.
Against the background of the 23 per cent increase in non-traditional exports at the end of 2012 an increase of U$155.45 million, the JEA complained "successive governments have failed to remain fully committed to an export-led growth strategy".
What's more, the association described the Government's attitude to the export sector as "even more troubling and insensitive" within the context of the new Customs Administration Fees.
"These new fees have increased business costs significantly and marginal exporters are being forced to edge," Collins said.
He continued: "In many instances the import fees associated with certain packaging material such as cans and bottles have tripled and quadrupled".
The JEA said priority focus must be given to the development of exports as a vehicle for economic transformation.
The association further called for the implementation of a tax policy with differentiated tax rates, which would make the sector more attractive for new exporters, thereby improving the country's revenue flow.
Additionally, it said all duties should be removed from all raw and packaging material imported as intermediate goods for processing into goods for exports to increase export competitiveness.
"We are further recommending that all charges and penalties be removed from exported products such as conch as these charges are forcing these exporters out of business," the association's head charged.
Speaking at a media briefing at its head office, the exporters reiterated the challenges faced as a result of high energy costs, as an impairment to sector growth.
"The JEA is aware that there is no easy solution to this challenge, however, we are urging the Government to continue to search for creative ways to reduce the cost profile of the export sector," Collins said. A review of the sector's performance shows a recovery in non-traditional exports over the past four years, a trend which has continued into 2013, Collins said.
"During the global recession, there was a decline in earnings from US$949.1 million in 2008 to US$595 million in 2010, but the sector is recovering, he said.
"It is for this reason and the potential of the sector to improve export revenue and our adverse trade balance as well as create employment why we believe that special care must be given to the sector as a matter of immediacy," Collins urged.