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IMF rep impressed with Jamaican Teas

Published:Saturday | June 27, 2015 | 6:00 AMChristopher Serju

"It is very encouraging to see that in the current economic climate, there are opportunities to grow, including in manufacturing. And that is, of course, exactly what we need to make this economic programme succeed," Bert van Selm, the International Monetary Fund's (IMF) resident representative in Jamaica told The Gleaner yesterday.

Van Selm was speaking in the wake of a visit to Jamaican Teas Limited at 2 Bell Road, Kingston, on Tuesday, where, along with members of the Jamaica Exporters' Association executive, he

was treated to a tour of the company's packaging operations.

Speaking ahead of the tour, the IMF representative voiced his appreciation for the chance to get a first-hand look at some aspects of the local manufacturing sector.

"We at the fund, you know, we spend far too much time in our offices looking at charts and tables, so I welcome any opportunity I get to see what's actually going on, like we have today, and, indeed, to figure out what it takes to make the Jamaican economy grow faster than it has over the past few decades," he said.

Options for growth

"This is the only thing that you can do - just go and talk to people and hear from them, what it is that stands in your way of growing faster than you are today and what is it that the Government of Jamaica, or the IMF, or anybody else can help overcome. That's the purpose of my visit," he said.

Earlier, John Mahfood, chief executive officer of Jamaican Teas Limited, had informed the touring party that the significant fallout in the manufacturing sector over time was especially evident in that section of the city.

"This used to be a very, very vibrant area of activity, employing thousands of people, and today, it is a ghost town. Salada is fortunately still there, warehouses, too, but not much in terms of manufacturing, and I sometimes ask myself why that is," he said.

A big part of the problem, Mahfood pointed out, was the misconception policymakers had that the purchasing power of Jamaica's relatively large population, by regional standards, was enough to sustain the growing number of local businesses.

In recent times, things have begun to change for the better, Mahfood said.

"I think that the reason it has changed is because we are becoming more confident as small manufacturers. In our case, we bought the business in 1996, and from we started, we said the only way we were going to survive is to focus on exports. Because of the exports, we are able to survive. A lot of companies that are not exporting are suffering."

christopher.serju@gleanerjm.com