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Jamaican spice makers get IFC backing to grow exports

Published:Friday | February 26, 2016 | 2:00 AMSteven Jackson
A jerked pork dish is displayed in Kingston. Jamaican makers of sauces and spices are to get help to tap more deeply into the export market.

Jamaican sauce and spice makers are being offered the chance to position for business in the export market, with backing of US$1 million in technical assistance from the IFC, the private-sector financing arm of the World Bank.

The 'Jamaica Sauces & Spices Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) and Value Chain Project' aims to improve market linkages with export markets, address standards and improve operational efficiency of spice makers.

"As a result, MSMEs are expected to save costs and increase sales revenues by increasing quality, diversifying products, and seizing new export market opportunities," said the IFC in project documents.

Sauce earnings alone are on par with Jamaican coffee, which holds a luxurious appeal globally. The global interest for the island's sauce and spice surrounds its jerk seasoning.

Last November, the Jamaican Government took steps to copyright 'Jamaican Jerk' through the registration of a geographical indication (GI), which protects against the use of the Jamaican name to promote or label products made mainly outside the island. It guards against foreign-made products being labelled 'Jamaican style' or 'Jamaican type' or 'Jamaican kind jerk'.

The IFC approval of technical assistance was disclosed this week, but the actual project received the agency's sign-off in January 2015.

Attempts at comment from several sauce makers on the potential implication for their business were unsuccessful.

The project falls under the Cariforum-EU Economic Partnership Agreement, a trade pact between the two blocs.

"It is the first partnership between the European Union and IFC to work with advisory services in Latin America and the Caribbean," said IFC.

The agency said it would support implementation of the EPA Capacity Building (EPA)-II programme, which aims to improve "access of Jamaican products to the rest of the world".

Sauces and coffee each earned US$16 million for Jamaica in 2014, the latest Bank of Jamaica data shows.

In December, the IFC disclosed a US$560,000 ($67-million) coffee project to provide technical assistance to that sector to improve productivity of the crop. That project seeks to work with coffee-processing and/or exporting firms to implement a proposed action plan to "reverse" the declining trend of farm productivity and preserve Jamaica's reputation for premium coffee.

steven.jackson@gleanerjm.com