Henry urges more inter-Caricom trade
HENRY… we really have to do better in inter-Caricom trade (Photo: Anthony Lewis)

ROSE HALL, St James — Port Authority of Jamaica executive Gloria Henry is urging local businesses to shore up their presence in regional trade to take advantage of opportunities now available in various sectors.

"We really have to do better in inter-Caricom trade," Henry, the company's vice-president BPO and logistics, during a panel discussion on 'Global Digital Services and Logistics' on day one of the Invest Jamaica Business Conference 2022 in St James last week.

For inspiration, she referenced the success of local firm business process outsourcing firm itelbpo that has expanded to nine countries in the Caribbean.

"It shows you how we can move a successful entity from one Caricom country into another and drive success in that country. We really need to exploit the opportunities and we must do all that we can to achieve that 25 by 25," stated Henry.

Her reference was to an agreement, signed by Caricom leaders, aimed at reducing dependence on food imports by 25 per cent by the year 2025.

According to Henry, there are significant opportunities in the agricultural sector.

"Jamaica produces about 85 per cent of the Irish potato that we consume now and we can look towards producing surpluses in that. We can look towards producing surpluses in onions. You heard about the Jamaican patties and there is that great opportunity for contract manufacturing and for setting up operations in other parts of the Caribbean that can make Jamaican patties. We have competitive advantages in growing certain crops in Jamaica, as they do in Trinidad, and you know we can share best practices in those areas," stated Henry.

Turning her attention to opportunities in logistics, Henry noted that while a small amount of outsourcing is being done from the Montego Bay Freeport, manufacturing of original equipment is another inter-Caribbean trade area from which Jamaica can benefit.

"Currently, most of our trading is with the US and Canada, and Europe to some extent, but there is a great opportunity to exploit and build on inter-Caricom trade. We must first start with the distribution hubs though, to enhance the supply chain and to harmonise a system that will facilitate that kind of trade well," she urged.

She said the Port Authority is currently setting up a distribution hub while positioning itself for near-port logistics as a means of aiding the growth of businesses.

"At the Port Authority, we are looking at working with various stakeholders in industries to grow different segments of various businesses that we believe will need space to operate as well as support volumes at the port. We have invested over US$19 million to build out a state-of-the-art Kingston logistics park building, [a] 200,000 square feet building with four separate units to serve as a catalyst for persons looking to operate in the third party logistics and fourth party logistics space," said Henry.

She gave examples of areas of demand where opportunities exist.

"You would have seen that in the pandemic a number of persons have moved to online shopping. And so, there are significant volumes coming in within the small parcels industry and that is set to grow. We believe that there are tremendous opportunities for the consolidated businesses and to support the growth in other industries. Tourism, for example, is growing. So there is that demand there," Henry said.

She also pointed to logistics related opportunities in agriculture.

"We have over 5,000 acres of lands in our agro parks growing crops that can be exported not just to the region but to other countries. So there are opportunities for various forms of logistics that we believe that we can support," stressed Henry, who noted that the Port Authority is currently positioning itself as a regional hub.

Already, she added, Kingston Freeport terminal, the region's largest, already moves a significant volume of the region's goods.

"Perhaps what we move in a month is what the rest of the ports in the Caribbean move in a year. So we have the ability to set up the distribution hub," Henry stated.

"Imagine how important that would have been during COVID if we had our health-care distribution hub here. So that is what we're looking towards working towards: setting up a distribution hub, as well as positioning ourselves for near-port logistics, leveraging the various forms of legislation and policies that are in place. We already have the framework in place, having built out… other industries and we have the capacity and the port," added Henry.

Anthony Lewis

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