‘Give J’can farm­ers, man­u­fac­tur­ers pref­er­ence’

Jamaica Gleaner - - NEWS - Clau­dia Gard­ner Gleaner Writer

WESTERN BUREAU: ANAGING DI­REC­TOR of the SEPROD Group of Com­pa­nies, Richard Pan­do­hie, said Govern­ment must im­ple­ment poli­cies to en­sure Ja­maican man­u­fac­tur­ers and farm­ers are given first pref­er­ence in the pur­chase of goods by the tourism sec­tor, if Ja­maica is to truly feel that in­dus­try’s eco­nomic im­pact.

Ac­cord­ing to Pan­do­hie, Ja­maica, un­like its other tourism­cen­tred CARICOM coun­ter­parts, al­lows the im­por­ta­tion of prod­ucts which are al­ready be­ing pro­duced by man­u­fac­tur­ers or cul­ti­vated by farm­ers in the is­land, with very few re­stric­tions.

He made his com­ments dur­ing an in­ter­view with The Sun­day Gleaner at a gas­tron­omy sem­i­nar at the Hil­ton Rose Hall in Mon­tego Bay, St James, last Wed­nes­day.

“One of the big gaps we have in Ja­maica is that we ‘op­er­ate in si­los’ – so the tourism min­is­ter is do­ing one thing, the in­dus­try min­is­ter is do­ing one thing, and

MSEPROD’s Man­ag­ing Di­rec­tor Richard Pan­do­hie (cen­tre) speaks with Gen­eral Man­ager of Caribbean Prod­ucts Cle­ment Bur­nett and Min­is­ter of Tourism Edmund Bartlett, at a gas­tron­omy sem­i­nar at the Hil­ton Rose Hall in Mon­tego Bay, St James, last Wed­nes­day.

they each have the best in­ten­tions at heart; but no­body is link­ing it to­gether, so that is how we lose op­por­tu­ni­ties,” Pan­do­hie said.

“Of all our mar­kets ... over­seas, I am con­vinced that Ja­maica has one of the most open poli­cies around, to the detri­ment of our coun­try. And I be­lieve that we should have stan­dards in place. There should be a first op­tion to go to (pur­chase) lo­cal prod­ucts and if we can’t pro­duce it, then you ex­er­cise your op­tion to do oth­er­wise.”

He con­tin­ued, “In the mean­time, there should be a pro­gramme in place that over time these things hap­pen. The tourism in­dus­try is a sea­sonal in­dus­try for the most part. If you look here to­day, it is the slow

sea­son. Peo­ple are off work, peo­ple are on con­tracts, the qual­ity jobs and the con­sis­tent jobs are go­ing to come from man­u­fac­tur­ers, from the farm­ing com­mu­nity, et cetera, and we must force the in­dus­try to pull the rest of Ja­maica along with it.”

HEARTENED BY MIN­ISTRY EF­FORTS

Pan­do­hie said, nev­er­the­less, he was heartened that steps are be­ing taken by the Min­istry of Tourism to stem the in­ad­e­quate link­age be­tween the tourism sec­tor and the rest of the econ­omy, as over the years, there has been no con­comi­tant in­crease in trade with the tourism sec­tor, de­spite a sig­nif­i­cant rise in the num­ber of vis­i­tors to the is­land.

“Re­gard­ing the link­ages be­tween the tourism sec­tor and the man­u­fac­tur­ing sec­tor and farm­ers, what you are see­ing is that the tourism sec­tor has been grow­ing. We have been get­ting 3.5 mil­lion peo­ple vis­it­ing us an­nu­ally, go­ing up to four mil­lion. But when you look at the im­port bill and the stuff they are im­port­ing, there is a huge op­por­tu­nity for lo­cal com­pa­nies to be able to sup­ply a good por­tion of it that could be trans­for­ma­tional for these com­pa­nies, even in things like farm prod­ucts and man­u­fac­tured prod­ucts,” he said.

“I think in the past there has just been a com­plete sep­a­ra­tion of the tourist in­dus­try from the rest of the econ­omy and I be­lieve

that there is a de­sire now for that link to hap­pen be­cause so much of the tourism dol­lar was seen to be stay­ing out­side of Ja­maica and it was not flow­ing through to the econ­omy.”

Pan­do­hie added: “The tourism sec­tor was get­ting sig­nif­i­cant tax in­cen­tives, and for it to re­ally make sense, the rest of the econ­omy has to be a part of that equa­tion, with the link­ages com­mit­tee push­ing to say what are the op­por­tu­ni­ties out there; how can we match man­u­fac­tured goods to im­por­ta­tion. I think on our side as man­u­fac­tur­ers, we have to make sure we are ag­gres­sive and scream that ‘we can pro­duce these prod­ucts, qual­ity prod­ucts, com­pet­i­tively priced; so you need to buy from us’.”

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