A picture of mixed fortunes in manufacturing is emerging from the full onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in Jamaica.
Amid the layoffs, cost-cuttings and supply chain challenges, and issues with the availability of foreign exchange, President of the Jamaica Manufacturers and Exporters Association, JMEA, Richard Pandohie, says the coronavirus has opened trade doors that the sector had been knocking on for a long time.
“On one level there have been great stories where those businesses have exploded in terms of exports. A lot of small manufacturers who are into natural juices, and natural products from cassava and natural spices have gone into markets that they have trying to do for years,” Pandohie told the Financial Gleaner.
One company that has seen an uptick in business, Jamaican Teas, had to lay on new work shifts and extra production days to keep up with export demand.
“Because of our product base, there’s been strong demand overseas to the extent that we’re doing overtime, even on Saturdays, to keep up with the extra demand, said JamTeas CEO John Mahfood. The company exports under its proprietary brand, Caribbean Dreams.
Pandohie says one of the outcomes of the COVID 19 pandemic is that people are looking to eat better. This, he says, has led to a search for natural products which is presenting Jamaica with a great opportunity for agro-processing left only for entrepreneurs to embrace.
At the same time Pandohie says that companies, especially those who service the tourism sector, like Rainforest Seafoods, down 85 per cent or those who supply the food service sector like poultry producer Jamaica Broilers Group, are facing challenges due to the lockdown of tourism businesses and schools, and falling patronage of restaurants and fast food establishments.