Conch cess reduced
The cess charged on conch exports is to be reduced to US$0.50 per pound, down from US$0.75.
Minister of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries Karl Samuda made the announcement on Friday following a tour of the Slipe Road factory of Rainforest Seafoods, which itself is touting increased exports to regional and international markets.
The Government earns millions from the levy on conch exports annually. The levy was imposed in 2009 and is channelled to the Fisheries Management Development Fund.
The reduction in the cess will allow processors to increase their output and foster innovations in value-added products, said Rainforest manager Max Jardim.
"Those savings should be and will be reinvested in the industry," Jardim told Wednesday Business, adding that other stakeholders would also likely reinvest the savings, leading to even more exports.
For Rainforest, the US$0.25 per pound saving "is significant," as the company plans to reinvest in packaging machines and techniques to boost its production.
"Last year, we exported conch skewers with Jamaican sweet peppers and Jamaican onion. Those savings can go back into R&D (research and development), creating new products," Jardim said.
"It's good for the industry because the minister is asking the players to reinvest and come up with value-added products and he's not only asking, he's helping us to do it."
He said Rainforest supplies 10 CARICOM countries with its slate of products, covering one-third of the Caribbean market, for which it competes with other international players.
Speaking to the overall agro-processing sector, Minister Samuda said the ministry will press Caricom for protection from similar products produced outside the region, if local companies increase their output.
"If you are able to get an output that satisfies 75 per cent, then we can make a case for all goods supplied within Caricom to enter the markets without them having to pay, as long as it complies with the value-added [criteria]," Samuda said.