Global supply chain challenges present opportunity for C'bbean countries

KINGSTON, Jamaica - Jamaica Manufacturers and Exporters Association (JMEA) president, John Mahfood, believes that global supply chain challenges, resulting from the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) and compounded by the Russia/Ukraine conflict, present a window of opportunity for Caribbean countries to explore and pursue regional production capacity buildout.

According to a release, the popular businessman said that the potential buildout would enable territories, where possible, to become self-sufficient and reduce their dependence on imported commodities and inputs, thereby safeguarding individual economies and, by extension, the overall region against future exogenous shocks.

Mahfood notes that businesses have been impacted by several major issues as a result of the pandemic and war.

“Companies around the Caribbean are not getting the products that they need…and we’re [experiencing] tremendous difficulties [with] shipping logistics. Consequently, there are shortages of [inputs such as] cans, glass bottles, and plastics,” he said.

Mahfood further added that these issues have been exacerbated by factors such as inflation, exchange and interest rate fluctuations, and volatile global oil prices, while pointing out that “small businesses [in particular] have been hard hit”.

“We must find ways to combat these problems [and not] be daunted. There is a need, now, for us to look at the nations in the Caribbean banding together and looking at what each country produces that can support the others. This, so that in times of shortages, we’re not looking to countries far away for supplies and trying to compete with much bigger and wealthier countries for these,” he said citing examples of at least two Jamaican companies, which are engaged in furniture and automotive exports to CARICOM member countries.

He points out that these demonstrate that “there are opportunities which local companies can capitalise on, if we act quickly”.

“If we manufacture something in Jamaica, sell it here and it is accepted, you can [try to] sell it in Trinidad and Tobago, if you go into the marketplace and work hard. We can easily ship to Barbados and Trinidad, and [they] can ship to us,” the JMEA president points out.

Mahfood maintains that “we need to now start looking at how we protect ourselves in CARICOM”.

“If we were doing business with each other, we would be better protected. If we come together to protect ourselves, we [will be] stronger,” he adds.

President of the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce (JCC), Ian Neita, expressed Mahfood’s sentiments regarding bolstering trade among CARICOM countries to safeguard each territory’s commercial and economic interests.

Neita also cited the need for local private sector stakeholders to take advantage of and tap into business and investment opportunities arising, which would aid in bolstering safeguards against exogenous shocks that have commercial and economic consequences.

“We have to be bold and courageous in taking on business opportunities. Too often I hear that the opportunities are here, in Jamaica… but the local investors are not to be found; and so [there are] interests overseas [who] see the opportunities [and] come in to [take advantage of them],” he expressed.

Neita maintains that “we have to be less risk-averse as a business community and take advantage of some of these opportunities that are emerging” which, he adds, will redound to Jamaica’s long-term benefit.

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