Daraine Luton, Senior Staff Reporter
COURTNEY SPENCE, who describes himself as a partner in a growing restaurant business in China, says there is "a huge demand for Western foods" in that country and Jamaicans should seek to take advantage of such business opportunities.
Spence said yesterday that his restaurant serves up Jamaican and other Western foods to the palates of people in the Far East.
He was among scores of persons who attended a Doing Business with China forum staged jointly by the Jamaica-China Friendship Association and the Chinese Embassy at the Wyndham Kingston hotel in New Kingston.
He argued that foreigners in China have been craving for a taste other than that which Chinese food offers.
"With our spicy ingredients, it gives a better flavour for the Africans. When we opened the restaurants, a lot of Africans and Indians come there because we are offering the spicy food."
Spence also said Jamaican liquor is a hit in China, and so too is the island's national dish.
"They have sampled the ackee and the salt fish and they love it," he said.
He told The Gleaner that Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee is popular in China, but claimed that there is a widespread practice of business people using the Blue Mountain name to market low-grade coffee there.
Spence also said there was tremendous opportunity for proof-readers and editors in China. He has encouraged Jamaicans to go to China and experience the business opportunities there and then seek to take advantage.
China is the world's second-largest economy after the United States. It is the world's fastest-growing major economy, with growth rates averaging 10 per cent over the past 30 years. The country is also the largest exporter and second-largest importer of goods in the world.
Spence said he was among the many people who saw the business opportunity in the Far East and sought to take advantage. He was in the business of buying used cameras in China and selling them in the Caribbean.
However, his entry into the restaurant business came by accident. He said that in 2000, during one of his regular business trips to China, he was swindled out of his money by Chinese businessmen.
"I lost everything, so I had to spend a year there. I taught English and during that year, because I did not like eating from the Chinese restaurants, I started doing my own cooking," Spence said.
"The local friends that I was with liked the cooking, so we started a partnership to do a restaurant. The restaurant grew. I then was drafted for politics in Jamaica and I had to return home."
Spence, who was at the time seeking to gain the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) nomination to contest South St Andrew in the 2002 election, said the restaurant business in China has grown. He said there are now six restaurants and that his business partners are seeking to start a Jamaican restaurant at the Shanghai Airport.
Fay Pickersgill, chairman of the Jamaica-China Friendship Association, said that body would be taking a delegation to China and has extended an invitation to Jamaicans to take advantage of the opportunity.
The dates for the trip are September 7 to 27. It will cost US$7,500 each for double occupancy and US$8,500 for single. The money will cover airfare, accommodation, inland travel, meals and attractions.
Liu Lei, a commercial councillor in the Chinese Embassy, said Jamaicans going to China to do business should recognise that the culture there is based on relationships.
"It is appropriate to bring a gift, particularly something representative of your firm or region to a business meeting or event. This will play an important part in your business relationship," she said.
She also said the senior personnel in organisations should be presented with gifts that are perceived to be of a higher value than those given to subordinates.