Sat | Oct 21, 2017

Metry Seaga takes reins of JMA: Refined sugar cess, public procurement in cross-hairs

Published:Friday | June 26, 2015 | 12:00 AMTameka Gordon
Rudolph Brown/Photographer Newly elected president Metry Seaga speaks at the Jamaica Manufacturers Association annual general meeting, at the JMA secretariat, Duke Street, Kingston on Wednesday, June 24, 2015.

Metry Seaga is the new head of the Jamaica Manufacturers' Association (JMA), replacing outgoing president Brian Pengelley.

The former deputy president was elected unopposed on Wednesday at the association's annual general meeting in Kingston.

Executive chairman of Corrpak Jamaica, Howard Mitchell, is now the deputy president. He was also unopposed.

Seaga said his administration would maintain a strong public voice, including through the media, on issues relating to the manufacturers and will be at the "negotiating table with the Government in all instances".

He takes over with the sugar cess still unresolved, but the new administration is as militant in its opposition of a cess proposed by the Ministry of Agriculture on refined sugar imports as the former JMA executive.

"We are not prepared to pay a cess," said Pengelley, now the JMA's immediate past president.

ready for talks

The agriculture ministry and JMA are due to hold talks on the cess, but Seaga said the association is yet to be told by the ministry when they would begin.

Permanent Secretary Donovan Stanberry said that as soon as the JMA's new administration has settled in "then we will have the meeting because we are ready.

"We tried to engage the JMA about three weeks ago. What we were told is that they were on the verge of a leadership change and perhaps it would be best to engage the new administration of the JMA," Stanberry said.

The agriculture official said the Government has "concretised" its own position and was ready to resolve the issue.

Asked what demands the JMA intends to put to the ministry, Seaga said the group remains adamant that the cess must be "taken off the table".

Revenue from the cess is intended to fund a push by the Jamaica Cane Product Sales (JCPS) to tap Caribbean markets with a refined sugar product under its Jamaica Gold brand, among other things.

JCPS is a consortium of private producers, through which their sugar supplies are pooled and marketed in Jamaica and overseas. The Government has no ownership in the company, but JCPS is a marketing agent of state agency SIA.

General manager of the JCPS, Karl James, could not be reached for comment on the agency's readiness to commence exports of prepackaged refined sugar, which is to be produced by its partner, Caribbean Depot Limited, the same company that now handles packaging of JCPS's Jamaica Gold brown sugar product.

Beyond sugar, among the other issues Seaga plans to tackle during his presidency are the ongoing issues of crime, high energy costs and tax reform, as well as the public procurement policy.

lead by example

Government should "buy Jamaican-made (products) when it is spending our money," asserted the JMA president.

"As the largest purchaser of all goods and services, the Government is bound to lead by example and buy locally made products ... this is my pet peeve."

Were the Government to be more supportive of local producers, it would lead to the growth of companies, as well as the creation of more jobs, he said.

On taxes, while commending the steps already taken by Minister of Finance Dr Peter Phillips in addressing reforms, Seaga said the JMA will push for a simple, easily administered and evenly shared tax structure.

The other members of the new JMA executive body include Jason Dear, who was re-elected as treasurer, and Vermont Murray and Simon DuQuesnay, who were re-elected as directors for another three years.

New directors include Seprod CEO Richard Pandohie, Sandra McLeish of Spring Vale Enterprise, and Salada's Jerome Miles.

tameka.gordon@gleanerjm.com