JMEA lobbies for Government to drive focus on tapping new markets

Jamaica Manufacturers and Exporters Association (JMEA), in its push to gain greater growth for the productive sector, is calling on the Government to appoint an export minister to better serve local producers trying to navigate the challenges associated with getting their products into new overseas markets.

President of the JMEA John Mahfood said he believes this call to be necessary if bottlenecks in exporting are to be properly dealt with and given the required level of attention.

“The JMEA will be sitting with the minister of industry and commerce [shortly] and one of the things that I'm going to ask of him is to appoint a minister of export. The Government is so big and has so many things to do; hence how will they find the time to deal with every little matter — as such we believe they need to identify a person for this responsibility,” Mahfood said during a Jamaica Observer Business Forum held earlier this week.

The newly elected president said that aside from the challenges of low output from the manufacturing sector, one of the fundamental areas of focus for the organisation over the next few years was to increase exports, particularly in the Caribbean where producers are seeking to double down and benefit from deeper penetration of regional markets. He said with the local economy being a small one, the outlook has to be diversified.

Stephen Dawkins, vice-president of the JMEA and co-chair its export and logistics committee, urged more companies, particularly small and medium-sized entities, to go beyond the local borders. He said that while challenges including port logistics and fee barriers continue to impact operations for a lot of companies in the trade, gradual steps were being made towards greater efficacy. He, like the president, also supports the call for an export csar, whom he believes would centre greater focus on this area and advocate for the requisite improvements.

Up to March of this year, total earnings from exports were valued at US$354.6 million according to international merchandise trade statistics released in July by the Statistical Institute of Jamaica (Statin). The data highlighted the US, Netherlands, Canada, Puerto Rico and the United Kingdom as the top five countries to which Jamaica exports.

The Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ) also in its annual Economic and Social Survey tabled in Parliament recently indicated that overall earnings for exports in 2020 decreased by 10.9 per cent when compared to the previous year. This, as earnings for traditional exports declined by some 9.6 per cent and non-traditional exports by 11.1 per cent. Export output for manufactured goods also went down by approximately 17.8 per cent with earnings totalling US$7.1 million at the end of last year.

“The products with the largest percentage changes were sugar which contracted by 36.1 per cent to US$6.5 million and other products down 33.6 per cent to US$3.3 million. Rum exports earnings accounted for 85.7 per cent of traditional export earnings but contracted by 2.6 per cent.

“Although non-traditional exports saw increased earnings for processed foods; beverages & tobacco (excluding rum), animal & vegetable oils & fats, and other, this was not suffice to outweigh the contraction induced by the lower production of the other components,” the survey outlined.

MAHFOOD...the JMEA willbe sitting with the ministerof industry and commerce[shortly] and one of the thingsthat I'm going to ask of him isto appoint a minister of export(Photos: Joseph Wellington)
Stephen Dawkins (right), VP, JMEA, speaking at a JamaicaObserver Business Forum held on August 11. Beside him is JohnMahfood, recently elected president of the JMEA.
BY KELLARAY MILES Observer Business reporter milesk@jamaicaobserver.com

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