A WARM MARKET FOR HOT PRODUCTS

Jamaica 2018 | ECONOMY | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Diane Edwards, President of Trade & Investment Jamaica (JAMPRO), on making investments throughout the whole value chain, becoming a regional distribution hub, and boosting niche agricultural output.

Diane Edwards
BIOGRAPHY
Diane Edwards is President of the national investment and export promotion agency, where she is committed to developing and advancing Jamaica’s business brand. During her time at JAMPRO, she has led its transformational development to serve as a catalyst for wealth creation through increased customer focus and more effective marketing communications programs, while promoting a culture of innovation to facilitate and support the development of new industries. She previously served as General Manager and Director of J. Wray & Nephew UK Ltd. She holds an MBA from Pace University, a master's in international relations from the Institut d’Etudes Politiques de Paris, and is fluent in English, French, Spanish, and German.

What is the role of the Jamaican diaspora in investing in Jamaica and consuming Jamaican products?

The remittances from the diaspora amount to over USD2 billion per year. In addition to that, the diaspora is a warm market for Jamaican products, given people's nostalgia for what they ate as a child. The UK, Canada, and the US are the core markets for our food exports in particular. JAMPRO takes Jamaican companies to trade shows internationally. For some markets, this is our principal means of penetration. We try new consumer penetration strategies as well. Currently, we have several companies exhibiting their products in a cosmetics and beauty supplies store in London. We are bringing in distributors to look at and try products and hopefully sign contracts.

What is JAMPRO doing to promote foreign investment in Jamaica?

Our investment program starts with Vision 2030, a bipartisan program aimed at making Jamaica a developed country by 2030, part of which includes FDI. We have six sectors in which we promote investment that we have selected based on Jamaica's advantages, such as our natural and human resources and location. The six sectors are tourism, outsourcing, minerals, mining and energy, manufacturing and logistics, and agriculture. One of the biggest events we have is our triennial Jamaican Investment Forum, which we stage in Montego Bay. We held this in 2012 and 2015 and will hold another in 2018. This event is for around 400 handpicked and vetted investors potentially interested in these six targeted sectors. Of these, tourism is one of our biggest contributors of foreign exchange and growing at about 5% per year in terms of visitor arrivals. There are at least 10,000 rooms that will be built in the next five years. Secondly, outsourcing, including business process outsourcing (BPO), in which 25,000 people are already employed and growing presents a huge opportunity in Jamaica. The opportunity here owes to our strong local workforce for BPO. Added to this, our proximity and cultural affinity with the US makes it quite seamless, with Americans being happy to have their call answered by a Jamaican voice. In the minerals, mining, and energy sectors, our largest mineral exports are bauxite and alumina. We have had some strong investment in this area recently, with the Chinese takeover of the Alpart Alumina Refinery in St. Elizabeth and the American Noranda Company, which has taken over the plant in St. Ann. In addition to bauxite, over 80% of the surface area of Jamaica is limestone, which has a huge opportunity for export because of its 99.4-99.8% pure-grade. This means we can export food and pharmaceutical-grade limestone. In terms of energy, JAMPRO plans to expand the use of renewables to 30% by 2030, from 14% today. Manufacturing will receive a huge boost because of the development of Jamaica's special economic zones (SEZs). SEZs will take over from the free zones because they are more integrated into the fabric of the economy. This makes it exciting because we are truly looking at investments along the entire value chain. This leads to logistics, and Jamaica's location directly north of the Panama Canal gives us a great opportunity to be a regional distribution hub. The Port of Kingston was privatized by a French firm in 2016 and is improving its efficiency. The sixth sector with huge opportunities is agriculture. Jamaica has long been a producer of sugar cane, but that is far from the only product. Another is Blue Mountain Coffee, which is one of the five most expensive in the world. Then there is cocoa production, Jamaica being one of the eight countries in the world allowed to use the term “fine cocoa" because of our cocoa blend.