The Jamaica Manufac-turers' association (JMA) indicated on Wednesday that it has taken a first step towards improving labelling and product packaging of local firms, with the backing of the European Union.
The project, which aims to improve export competitiveness for Jamaican products, began on November 8 and will last eight months.
The technical assistance component is expected to kick off in January 2013 after a consultant has been hired.
However, the J$4.5-million project can only accommodate 10 companies, which are yet to be selected.
Seventy per cent of the funding required, or €30,000, was received as a grant under the Caribbean Export Development Agency Direct Assistance scheme, which is financed by the European Union.
Kamesha Turner, research and project manager at the JMA, indicates that alongside the 10 firms, other companies will benefit from capacity-building workshops to be launched simultaneously.
In the long term, the JMA wants to create a printing and packaging cluster - a project for which Turner says the manufacturers will seek additional funding.
The JMA has some 380 members, of which 320 are manufacturers. The vast majority are MSMEs. Forty of this subgroup are in need of the technical support proposed under the project.
"Based on the National Export Strategy, the issue of poor packaging is widespread. It was identified as a key area for improving export competitiveness," said Turner.
Increase in sales
The 10 companies selected for technical assistance will be those most in need of improvement in labelling, brand identity and packaging.
"With improved packaging, they will definitely see an increase in sales. It's a consumer market, and if labels are attractive, sales will improve," said Turner.
"However, in addition to packaging and branding, other elements also come into play. A lot of Jamaican companies do not understand the importance of marketing. Just finding a distributor is not enough. On-the-ground promotions and co-branding with other companies like a restaurant chain will help."
The JMA issued a tender on November 11 for a project consultant who will guide the process.
JMA Executive Director Imega Breese-McNab, in a statement issued on the project, said it would be "executed through a comb-ination of capacity building and technical assistance involving key stakeholders such as graphic designers, manufacturers, and printeries."
Breese-McNab added that there is "huge potential for investors along the printing and packaging industry value chain". Jamaica imported US$74.434 million of plastic packaging in 2010, while in 2009, some US$8.824 million of printed paper labels was imported mainly from Trinidad and Tobago, Mexico, Costa Rico and the United States, she said.