Data from the Statistical Institute of Jamaica (STATIN) reveal that for the period January to November 2012, earnings from total exports were valued at US$1,524.7 million, an increase of US$34.8 million or 2.3 per cent, compared to the similar period in 2011. Additionally, during the same period in 2012, earnings from non-traditional domestic exports were valued at US$769.5 million, an increase of US$146.8 million or 23.6 per cent over the similar period in 2011. This accounted for 52.6 per cent of total domestic exports.
This was noted by President of the Jamaica Exporters’ Association (JEA), Andrew Collins, at the JEA’s Breakfast Forum, held at the Four Seasons Hotel in Kingston, on Wednesday, March 13, under the theme: ‘Strengthening the supply chain to ensure export growth’. Mr. Collins also pointed out that exports from the food industry have shown consistent growth over the past five years, in spite of the many challenges. The JEA President noted that while growth is applauded, the sector continues to grapple with a number of challenges, which must be addressed, “if we are to maintain or even grow our market share.”
“As Jamaican exporters, we are confronted with daily challenges, many of which our competitors never encounter; however, we cannot allow these to limit our success,” he said. Mr. Collins pointed out that some of the obstacles that impede exporters in the domestic market include: inconsistency in supply of raw material; increases in export fees; untimely delays in the processing of export shipments; and undue delays in the testing of processed food.
He also noted that in the international marketplace, there are even greater challenges, chief of which is the continued changes in market entry requirements for major markets. “With each shipment we send off, we are subjected to a greater level of scrutiny in the marketplace, infringement of our intellectual property rights with products purporting to be Jamaican, and greater competition in the market,” he added.
Mr. Collins therefore, urged the Government to give priority to initiatives which will significantly improve the country’s ability to export. “We urge the Government to remove all obstacles in the export process,” he implored. In responding, Agriculture and Fisheries Minister, Hon. Roger Clarke, assured that the Government is committed to eliminating the obstacles which continue to hamper the export sector.
“We have to make sure that we put our house in order, if we are going to access the international marketplace,” he stated. “I believe that we have the capability to do so. The exporters in this country understand that one area that we can make a significant move in our exports is through the non-traditionals and our foods,” he said.
The Minister said this requires a collaborative effort among all stakeholders to work together to develop the sector and move at least one step ahead of the country’s competitors. He noted that the Government will be working closely with the JEA and other stakeholders to improve the agricultural sector and grow the country’s exports. “I am at the service of the JEA. I want to work with you, because your success is my success,” Mr. Clarke added.