Major EU boost for SME sector
Christopher Serju, Gleaner Writer
Jamaica's export competitiveness and food security drive got a major boost on Monday with the official launch of the second component of the European Union (EU)-financed Economic Partnership Agreement, through which €5 million will be made available to provide direct support to small and medium-size enterprises (SME). The project, which will be implemented by the International Finance Corporation (IFC), a member of the World Bank Group and the EU, aims to boost the productivity and income of Jamaican food producers, increasing the volume and quality of their goods and enabling access to new markets.
The Jamaica Food SME project component of the EPA-II Programme will provide support for the development of a more robust food-producing sector, primarily by raising the quality of agricultural and value-added products such as sauces and spices, Blue Mountain coffee and packed fresh produce generated by farmers and small and medium-size enterprises.
Rajeev Gopal, resident representative of the IFC, told the launch ceremony at the Courtleigh Hotel and Suites that, over the next 25 months, his organisation would work with local companies and related businesses to connect small and medium-size enterprises in the food sector with importers who are interested in buying Jamaican food products.
It will also help to build the capacity of these trade associations and related agencies to better serve their members by increasing their ability to tap into new markets. Further to this, it will seek to identify bottlenecks in value chains that hinder production or processing of new products and help to resolve these issues.
Farmers will also benefit through training in the areas of business and risk management, as well as technical support to improve production and productivity.
Meanwhile, Ambassador Paola Amadei, head of delegation of the European Union to Jamaica, warned against complacency in the face of the realities of globalisation, advising that only clear, negotiated, effectively applied and controlled rules will create and sustain conditions suited to international competition.
She pointed out that globalisation, if properly governed, can lead to improvement in standards of living, boosting economic and social integration, but there is also a potential downside.
Ambassador Amadei explained: "If left to the forces of the free market with no regulation, it has proven time and again to be the cause of disorder and economic degradation. We are convinced that a rule-based trade regime without distortions, red tape, arbitrary import and export bans and discrimination of foreign businesses and investors benefits people in making economic choices."