Jamaica non-traditional food exports have risen close to 12 per cent in the first half of this year, a sign that traders have so far not been intimidated by impending laws that could disqualify the majority of them from doing business with the United States.
From January to June, Jamaica sold food to markets abroad valued at US$67.9 million, up US$7.1 million or 11.8 per cent year on year.
A breakout of the data identifies the major food commodities exported during the period as yam accounting for US$9.9 million; baked products US$7.8 million; sauces at US$6.6 million; and dairy products and bird eggs at US$5.2 million.
The broader non-traditional export category generated sales of US$354.2 million at half-year, up US$34.9 million or 10.9 per cent.
Industry, Investment and Com-merce Minister, Dr Christopher Tufton, while addressing a workshop with food exporters on local preparedness to meet new safety requirements under the US Food Safety Modernisation Act, said the new certification requirements should be seen not as punishment but as an opportunity to create more competitive products and snag an even bigger slice of the US market.
The law takes effect in January.
"This is an opportunity for a new and better way of doing things," said Tufton, who was reinstated in the portfolio Tuesday under the new Holness administration.
"Too often we do not look beyond the horizon ... . We do not take enough time to observe trends and their implications of those changes on our activities," he said.
The United States is Jamaica's top market for exports. At half-year 2011, some 54.5 per cent of Jamaican exports valued at US$461.7 million went to the US, according to preliminary trade data released by the industry ministry and its agency JAMPRO on Tuesday.
Total earnings from exports for the period were valued at US$841.6 million, up 25.5 per cent from US$670.7 million.
The trade deficit between the US and Jamaica expanded to US$601.7 million from US$529.9 million at half-year 2010, the data sheet shows.