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JM | Dec 18, 2020

Jamaica should export more to the UK – British High Commissioner

Al Edwards

Al Edwards / Our Today

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Asif Ahmad, British high commissioner to Jamaica. (Photo: PSOJ)

British High Commissioner to Jamaica Asif Ahmad is imploring the Caribbean nation to export more to the United Kingdom (UK).

Ahmad drew attention to the fact that, in 2011, Jamaica exported US$110 million worth of goods to the UK but by 2019 that had dropped to just US$50 million.

This occurs against the backdrop of Jamaica’s balance of trade deficit standing at US$4.6 billion last year (a trade deficit occurs when a country imports more than it exports. The balance of trade is the difference between the value of a country’s imports and exports for a given period and is the largest component of a country’s balance of payments).

Ahmad, the top British diplomat in Jamaica, said there is a demand for Jamaican goods in the UK and that the next move remains with government agencies willing and able to facilitate trade between the two countries.

He said although big companies such as J. Wray & Nephew export rum, there are smaller enterprises that can find a market in the UK.

“Except for the luggage, very little cargo comes into Jamaica or leaves Jamaica and to me that is simply an opportunity to negotiate good terms with the airlines and to grow things, make things that we in the UK and others would buy.”

Asif Ahmad, British high commissioner to Jamaica

Ahmad’s tenure in Jamaica has been marked by a concerted effort to create more business between the countries and he has placed a lot of attention around the annual UK/Jamaica Trade Fair.

Only this week, British Airways announced more flights into Jamaica. This follows Virgin’s decision to return to flying here.

Ahmad said it would be heartening to see planes returning to the UK, full of Jamaica goods.

On this matter, two years ago, Ahmad observed: “Yes, the planes are full. We have plenty of people filling the seats, but underneath is empty.

“Except for the luggage, very little cargo comes into Jamaica or leaves Jamaica and to me that is simply an opportunity to negotiate good terms with the airlines and to grow things, make things that we in the UK and others would buy.”

AHMAD NOT ‘JUST A BAG OF MOUTH’

The British diplomat said he didn’t want to be characterised as being “just a bag of mouth”. That could  not be said in his case. He has relentlessly championed Jamaica/UK trade, more so than his predecessors, Jeremy Cresswell, Howard Drake, and David Fitton, and has stuck to his mission.

He has announced that, over the next three years, the UK is committed to providing funding of £55 million to the agricultural sector, more specifically irrigation powered by solar energy. Talks have commenced with Jamaican companies about supplying fruits and preparing them for the UK juice market, a staple of supermarket chains the length and breadth of the country.

Ahmad wants to get things accomplished.

He noted that the beauty industry was big business in Jamaica and that women here place great stock in hair products, getting their nails done and looking very good. He sees a big opportunity for Jamaican beauty products in the UK and laments that only US$530,000 worth of these goods are exported to the UK.

The onus is on the government and the private sector to make the UK a better trading partner and a market for Jamaican goods. There are over 800,000 Jamaicans in the UK, with over one million people of Caribbean descent.

Bamboo straws: Ahmad has been working to complete multimillion dollar investment by a British firm seeking to grow bamboo, process it and use the pulp to make nappies, paper, straws (as shown) and other materials. (Photo: procaffenation.com)

For the last two years, Ahmad has been working to complete a US$250-million investment by a British firm into bamboo production. This company is looking to grow bamboo, process it and use the pulp to make nappies, paper, straws and other materials.

The company requires 20,000 acres for this project but has been met by bureaucratic obstacles, government lethargy and an unwillingness to commercialise empty lands.

Lands in Holland Estate may very well be able to accommodate this venture. Our Today understands that discussions have taken place with Minister of Agriculture Floyd Green and Prime Minister Andrew Holness has interceded to see what can be done.

This company can create jobs and bamboo is a crop that replenishes well and is sustainable.

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