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Business groups partner on export drive

Published:Friday | December 2, 2016 | 12:00 AMTameka Gordon
JEA president Michelle Chong.

Two business groups have signed a pact with state-operated agencies that is meant to double exports to US$2.5 billion within four years.

The Jamaica Exporters' Association (JEA), the Jamaica Manufacturers' Association (JMA), Jampro and the Jamaica Business Development Corporation (JBDC) signed a memorandum of understanding on Wednesday that is meant to streamline the services each entity offers to eliminate duplication and reduce overlapping services they each offer.

The larger goal is to simplify the process and reduce the time it takes to move goods from the factory floor into foreign markets. Jamaica's annual exports topped US$1.26 billion in 2015, but are tracking below that this year. The most recent data shows exports at US$613.6 million for the January-June 2016 period, reflecting a near US$69 million fall-off in outbound foreign trade.

The initiative, called United for Export, is part of JEA President Michelle Chong's push for a more efficient export sector since taking up the helm of the JEA. Chong herself is CEO of the only listed bakery company, Honey Bun Limited.

Having put their signatures to the agreement, each of the four partners will now take a microscope to their systems to identify and remove areas of duplication and to determine the tasks best handled by the individual entities.

Master strategy for export

"We acknowledge that there has been duplication of effort and insufficient coordination among these four partners, related mainly to training, advocacy, building capacity and the development and execution of strategies," Chong said.

With each agency now working from a "master strategy for export, we'll each know our part and we will communicate it to our respective clients," she told the Financial Gleaner.

The agencies and business groups have been working together for the last six months to craft "a service map for each so exporters might know where to go and for what services", as well as a 12-month training plan. The partners will determine how the training schedule will be split among them and the frequency of capacity-building sessions.

"Good manufacturing practice may be something that JMA might manage and we at JEA might take things like ASYCUDA and teaching people about the trade barriers - so we will determine which one best fits each entity," Chong said.

The collaboration also includes creation of a website which will be a central point for information dissemination to producers. Instead of going to the various websites of each agency for help, one link will now get them to the information needed.

"The website will show the agencies, their services and the size of the exporters they service. So, JAMPRO may service a larger exporter, while JBDC may service those who are not yet exporting. You look at your size and you find your match by the services the agencies offer," said the JEA president.

Funding for United for Export will come from the savings that each agency will realise, according to Chong.

"I'm going to drop, say, six of the items that I'm doing because JMA is already doing it, so I would have saved resources," she reasoned.