Gleaner Editors' Forum | Government policies hindering exports - sector bosses
The demand for agricultural produce from Jamaica continues to increase internationally, but local exporters say their efforts to grow are being stymied by roadblocks set by mainly state agencies.
Addressing a Gleaner Editors' Forum last week, Dr Andre Gordon, managing director of Technological Solutions Limited, charged that Jamaica was exporting far less than it could.
"There is no shortage of markets for goods that we can produce competitively in Jamaica. ... If you look at the export figures, while exports in general have been declining, food exports have been growing," said Gordon.
"Last year, our food exports grew, as a category, from about US$144 million to US$164 million. It's not a lot of money, but when you look at individual categories, you have like 60 per cent growth in some areas, while some of them have grown more than 100 per cent.
"So can you imagine what would happen if we had a supportive environment for exports domestically and active support by the Government in selectively promoting exports into those markets that will give us the best returns?" added Gordon.
He noted that there has been increased demand internationally for Jamaican baked goods, which have seen exports grow from US$11.6 million in 2012 to US$18.9 million last year.
Gordon noted that earnings from ackee export have increased from US$4.4 million to US$21 million despite a shortage, while the demand for yam has also grown significantly from about US$19 million to US$24 million.
He said that almost all local beverages have demonstrated export growth in recent years.
But Gordon charged that a lack of focus on the part of the Government, and heavy regulatory policies, made it extremely difficult to export products in growing overseas markets.
He was supported by Richard Pandohie, deputy president of the Jamaica Manufacturers and Exporters' Association and CEO of Seprod.
"It's very impressive when you hear our people talk ... . We have a policy for this and one for that, but there are just too much things going on," said Pandohie.
"The bottom line is that there are huge opportunities for export growth, but it cannot be met if we continue to operate in an ad hoc way," added Pandohie.
Outside of the United States and the United Kingdom, there has been steady demand for Jamaican products in Europe and Latin America.