By Alecia Smith-Edwards
JIS Contributing Writer
ST. ANDREW, Jamaica, April 27 (JIS) — The Jamaica government will be appointing a Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Review Commission, aimed at positioning the country to take full advantage of benefits under the organisation.
This was announced by Prime Minister, Andrew Holness, today, at the unveiling ceremony for new equipment installed at International Biscuits Limited (IBL), in St. Andrew.
“I think the time has come for Jamaica to fully assess the benefits, opportunities and challenges of CARICOM and to assert ourselves in such a way that Jamaica gets the benefit of CARICOM,” he said.
The Prime Minister implored the country’s entrepreneurs and members of the business community in general, to think of CARICOM “as our market, and we are going to stake our claim in our market.”
He pledged that the government will become even more “assertive in how we ensure that our entrepreneurs are able to access the common markets of CARICOM.”
Holness advised business persons, and entrepreneurs in particular, “to take action” in seizing those marketing opportunities within CARICOM, and not be hampered by the excuse that Jamaican companies are unable to compete, due to lack of efficiency.
“We may not be able to compete because of the cost of energy, but we must be able to compete because we have a better tasting product, because our products are packaged better, and we have tailored a product that meets the needs of the consumer. So, we may not always have comparative advantages, but we must also develop and emphasise our competitive advantage as well,” he said.
In the meantime, the Prime Minister commended the SEPROD Group of Companies, of which IBL is a member, for its move to drive greater efficiencies within its production.
He praised the company on its enterprise and for “thinking globally,” noting that “Jamaica needs more entrepreneurs like yourself.”
Also commending the company on its innovativeness, Minister of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries, Karl Samuda, said this latest investment will result in savings of some $1.6 billion of imported biscuits into the country.
“It is (companies) like SEPROD that (are) going to drive the process of increased efficiency and productivity. You are an inspiration to us, the politicians; you are an inspiration to me, the Minister. You give me encouragement, you give me a sense of pride in what it means to be a Jamaican entrepreneur,” he said.
The SEPROD Group of Companies made an investment of $285 million in upgrading the IBL facility with state-of-the-art food manufacturing equipment, including the latest oven technology. This will enable high volume, high quality production and allows for third party production of crackers and sweet biscuits.
For his part, Chairman of SEPROD, Paul B. Scott, said implementation of the new oven will allow the company to produce 50 per cent more products for Jamaica, and will “drive volumes onto the supermarket shelves in the rest of the Caribbean.”
He said the increased productivity will lead to significant market penetration in the country’s domestic market – CARICOM.
IBL was acquired through SEPROD’s purchase of the manufacturing assets of Kraft Foods Jamaica Limited in 2007. It manufactures the Butterkist Cookies, Ovaltine, Snackables, Pick Nix, Butterkist Cream Crackers and Paco brands. The company’s products are distributed to over 3,000 customers throughout the United States and Canada.
SEPROD, which is the largest manufacturing entity in Jamaica, offers a range of products for the retail, wholesale and food service industry. The company manufactures and distributes edible oils and fats; dairy and fruit beverages; corn products; baked snacks; as well as other household consumer products.
The latest investment is part of SEPROD’s plans, over the next two years, to invest over $5 billion in new technologies, staff training and strategic partnerships to drive growth, increase exports and engage in import substitution. The Group employs 2,000 Jamaicans.