Local MSMEs grow under Direct Assistance Grant Scheme
Sheldon Williams, Staff Reporter
Some of the local micro small and medium-size enterprises (MSMEs) which are beneficiaries from the recently-introduced Direct Assistance Grant Scheme (DAGS), provided by the Caribbean Export Development Agency, have lauded the initiative, insisting that the funding has allowed them to improve productivity.
Dr Beverley Morgan, director of the non-government organisation the Competitiveness Company, which focuses on boosting ornamental fishing prospects in inner-city communities, said the funding will be injected to foster the penetration of international markets among other things.
"What we are doing is in people's backyards, in approximately 57 inner-city communities where we set up fish farms. The purpose of these fish farms is to produce fish for export that the international market demands," she explained.
She said that internationally accepted packaging for product export can now be provided using the much-needed funding.
"The regulations ask that the fish be packed in three layers of protection. The plastic bag with the water and the fish into which you pump oxygen. Then the bags are put in a Styrofoam liner box which then goes into an outer cardboard box that is properly labelled," she outlined.
"The major markets we are looking at are the US and Canada, but we are hoping that as the project grows, we can get into the European market," she said.
A feasibility study has also been prioritised on the viability of Jamaica's export-oriented plants project. Dr Morgan also outlined that research will be conducted on the viability of marine ornamentals.
Kenrick Vassall, director of Southern Fruits and Food Processors Limited, in the agro-processing sector, said in the first instance, his company targetted market penetration. He said his entity has engaged in rebranding, relaunching of labels and the setting up of a website.
"Now that we have redesigned our label and our website, we have the platform not just to penetrate the regional market but America and Europe," he said.
He emphasized that energy conservation was one of the improvements made as a result of the funding. "We insulated our pipes ..., effected some savings and reduced the carbon footprint," he said.
Anthony Hylton, minister of industry, investment and commerce, revealed at the launch of DAGS last week that 54 grants have been awarded to Jamaican firms totaling some €2.7 million. He said the grants represent a 45 per cent increase in grant funding for sectors such as agro-processing, creative industries, health and wellness, information and communication technologies.
"The funding provided to beneficiaries under the scheme is often utilised to modernise equipment, upgrade facilities to meet international food and quality standards, enhance products and packaging, implement alternative energy systems, market and promote products and services, train staff, and develop collateral materials," the minister said.