KINGSTON, Jamaica – Jamaica Manufacturers and Exporters Association (JMEA) President John Mahfood believes that global supply chain challenges, resulting from the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) and compounded by the Russia/Ukraine conflict, present a window of opportunity for Caribbean countries to explore and pursue regional productive capacity building.
According to a statement, the popular businessman said the potential construction would allow the territories, where possible, to become self-sufficient and reduce their dependence on imported products and inputs, thereby protecting individual economies. and, by extension, the entire region against exogenous futures. shocks.
Mahfood notes that businesses have been hit by several major issues as a result of the pandemic and the war.
“Caribbean businesses are not getting the products they need…and we are [experiencing] enormous difficulties [with] shipping logistics. Consequently, there are shortages of [inputs such as] cans, glass bottles and plastics,” he said.
Mahfood further added that these problems have been exacerbated by factors such as inflation, currency and interest rate fluctuations and global oil price volatility, while stressing that “small businesses [in particular] have been hit hard.”
“We need to find ways to tackle these issues [and not] be intimidated. It is necessary, now, that we watch the nations of the Caribbean come together and see what each country produces that can support the others. This, so that in times of scarcity, we don’t look to distant countries for supplies and try to compete with much bigger and richer countries for these,” he said, quoting examples of at least two Jamaican companies, which are engaged in furniture. and automotive exports to CARICOM member countries.
He points out that these demonstrate that “there are opportunities that local businesses can capitalize on, if we act quickly”.
“If we make something in Jamaica, and we sell it here, and it’s accepted, you can [try to] sell it in Trinidad and Tobago, if you go to market and work hard. We can easily ship to Barbados and Trinidad, and [they] can ship to us”, underlines the president of the JMEA.
Mahfood argues that “now we need to start looking at how we protect ourselves in CARICOM.”
“If we did business with each other, we would be better protected. If we come together to protect ourselves, we [will be] stronger,” he adds.
Jamaica Chamber of Commerce (JCC) President Ian Neita expressed Mahfood’s sentiments regarding enhancing trade among CARICOM countries to safeguard the commercial and economic interests of each territory.
Neita also cited the need for local private sector actors to take advantage and exploit trade and investment opportunities that arise, which would help strengthen safeguards against exogenous shocks with trade and economic consequences.
“We must be bold and courageous to seize business opportunities. Too often I hear that the opportunities are here in Jamaica…but the local investors are nowhere to be found; and so [there are] overseas interests [who] see opportunities [and] go in [take advantage of them]“, he expressed.
Neita argues that “we need to be less skittish as a business community and take advantage of some of these emerging opportunities” which, he adds, will affect Jamaica’s long-term earnings.