Jamaica Manufacturers and Exporters Association
Working to foster a stronger economy
Business View Caribbean interviews representatives of the Jamaica Manufacturers and Exporters Association for our focus on Economic Development in Jamaica.
In 2018, the Jamaica Manufacturers’ Association (JMA) and the Jamaica Exporters’ Association (JEA) merged to form the new Jamaica Manufacturers & Exporters Association (JMEA) – a dynamic organization, serving as the voice of Jamaica’s exporters, productive sectors and special interventions for micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs). The JMEA works diligently to foster a stronger economy, supporting the long-term success of renowned Jamaican brands, job creation, and endeavoring to improve the standard of living for the country, as a whole. Vital business development support is provided through advocacy, strategic partnerships, export services, research, capacity building, and access to affordable finance.
Currently numbering around 400, members of the Jamaica Manufacturers & Exporters Association (JMEA) form the cornerstone of Jamaica’s business community. Membership has three categories: Ordinary Members (should be engaged in manufacturing, be a registered company with Articles and Memorandum of Association); Associate Members (individuals, firms, partnerships, or companies, which provide service to the manufacturing sector and associations engaged or interested in any business in Jamaica and acceptable as such to the Board of Directors); and Micro and Small Members (companies employing up to five persons, in operation for less than seven years with gross annual sales not exceeding J$10 million).
Business View Caribbean recently spoke with Imega Breese McNab, JMEA’s Executive Director, and D’Jamila Ward, JMEA’s Export and Domestic Policy, Research and Information Manager, about the Association’s major objectives and ongoing initiatives that are propelling growth and sustainability in the Jamaican manufacturing and export sectors. The following is an edited transcript of that conversation.
BVC: What was behind the merger of JMA and JEA to form JMEA?
McNab: “We realized that we had two membership-based associations utilizing resources to serve manufacturers and exporters in Jamaica. Around April 2018, the membership agreed that the interests of those manufacturers and exporters would be better represented by a merged entity – now the Jamaica Manufacturers and Exporters Association. The overall objectives of the merger were to ensure we have a wider, more efficient range – almost like a one-stop service with the technical competence that would benefit the members; to provide stronger lobbying, as we thought there needed to be greater focus on manufacturing and export by the administration and the government; and to become a stronger entity that could attract, retain, and increase an active membership base.
“Due to the merger, we have an expanding role and represent a cohort of exporters that are involved not only in manufacturing, but also the export of primary produce, as well as services. We are a very small team of 15 staff, with four divisions: our executive and administrative team; our export, research, and trade department; our membership services and engagement department; and our business development services department.”
BVC: How do you communicate with the membership?
McNab: “We use different avenues of communication with our members. We find that direct messaging, whether via email, or telephone, or actual company visits, is very impactful. Outside of that, we are very visible through social media, as well as utilizing traditional media, because we have to be a visible, strong advocating body. So, we tend to ensure that those issues we are representing the interests of the members on are actually in the public domain. In terms of highlighting our benefits to attract new members, we do a lot of capacity building – in training, market intelligence, industrial relations, and other areas. We also hold two of the largest trade shows in the island, Expo Jamaica and the Jamaica International Exhibition (JIE), where we promote avenues to increase local and export sales for our membership.”
BVC: Do you have the numbers handy – revenue, number of jobs, etc., of your membership?
Ward: “What we know for sure is that our membership base constitutes the largest manufacturing and exporting companies in the country. Speaking to the overall contribution of the industry to Jamaica’s development, at this point, they are contributing 8.6 percent of GDP and have 79,000 jobs created through manufacturing. That’s 6.4 percent of the total employed labor force.”
BVC: How big is the staff and what are their main priorities?
Ward: We are a very small team; it’s 15 of us. We have four divisions: executive and administrative and then we have export, research, and the trade department. We have membership services and engagement, and we have our business development services department.
BVC: What ‘hot topics’ and important issues are at the forefront?
McNab: “From our perspective, it’s to get greater focus on manufacturing and export from the current and future government administration. We see that more resources need to be directed to stimulate greater export expansion and more investment, both locally and internationally, into the manufacturing sector. As such, we have been advocating for a number of impediments to be removed, especially relating to trade facilitation and the cost for logistics to move your goods from the port and have them shipped abroad; and bureaucracy – when it comes to the different licenses, permits, and charges that are applicable, and just the timeline to actually gets things done, not just to import but to export. In addition to that, there are other areas required to support the industry. We continue to advocate for competitive rates, and our intent is to have rates at about five percent going to the manufacturing and export sector.
“We look at issues such as infrastructure because one of the needs, especially from the micro and small manufacturers and exporters, is for retrofitted, concessionary-type factory space. But the strong focus of our new president is export expansion. We have recently developed a 10-point plan which includes a number of initiatives around stimulating exports, and these will now be presented to the government with the hope of having a strong industry partnership team with the government that will monitor and enforce what we are proposing. In addition, we have a manufacturing strategy that was developed in partnership with the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture, and Fisheries, as well as JAMPRO, which is going to cabinet. We have set ourselves a high target because we want to move our GDP contribution from $66 billion to $81 billion by 2025. That means we need to embark on a three percent annual growth rate in the manufacturing sector.”
Ward: “We also play a role in sustainable development, where we take into consideration the environment and the health of our people. We do have initiatives and work in partnership with the government to find the best, most equitable position that works for our people and the manufacturers, themselves – initiatives such as the deposit return scheme that we’re working on, where we have a target of around 80 percent of PEC bottles out of the system by 2025. And we had established a coalition with all our bottle manufacturers and beverage manufacturers to get this target. This is something we’re very proud of, that is now being spearheaded by Recycling Partners of Jamaica.”
BVC: What part do members play in advocacy?
McNab: “We’ve talked about responsibility of our government and our stakeholders and partners, but one thing our president has been pushing is our own responsibility as members, and as manufacturers. The most recent rhetoric on what we have been advocating for is also for our members to provide effective data that will inform policy designs, because unless we have that data at our fingertips, there’s no way we can adequately represent what the sector needs.
“As with everything, transition takes time. But I think the merger has shown members that it was relevant because we had the same objectives. And now, we have a much stronger team that is focused on expanding manufacturing and export. As our profile and visibility in that area has been advanced, we’re seeing we are recognized as almost the only player in that space. So there is a lot of dependence on us from the membership to represent them at all levels with all Ministries.”
Ward: “As it relates to trade negotiation matters, this is an area where they have been utilizing us extensively, because we now represent at the regional level, where we attend every COTED (Council for Trade and Economic Development) meeting. We are now the private sector representative for the CARIFORUM – EU Consultative Committee, so we’re playing a very critical role at the highest level when it comes to trade. Our members see that we are well-positioned and they believe in the team we have, and our Board has strong support from the membership base.”
BVC: What are the most important points you’d like to share about JMEA?
McNab: “From an international perspective: we are the one-stop shop in Jamaica to get access to manufacturers and exporters, especially if you are seeking goods for your market. Also, if you wish to invest in this space or play a role – if you have a particular skill set you would like to impart to the industry – you can actually reach out and contact us about anything that relates to manufacturing and export in Jamaica. From the local perspective, there are a lot of stakeholders we’d like to speak to. As it relates to manufacturers and exporters who are non-members, we want to say that this Association serves your needs through the services we offer. And we can help your business grow, and help you realize your business targets and objectives.”
Ward: “I think it’s a manifestation that there is strength in numbers. From a local perspective, what we want prospective members to realize is that we are an active organization. We have a reputation of not just talk, but action and executing initiatives. And we’re recognized as one of the preeminent business associations in Jamaica and the region. That’s a reputation we have worked very hard to maintain. You cannot go wrong with being a member of JMEA.”
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AT A GLANCE
Who: Jamaica Manufacturers and Exporters Association (JMEA)
What: Membership organization for the manufacturing and export industry
Where: Kingston, Jamaica