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New JMEA president eyes Amazon to boost exports

Newly appointed President of the Jamaica Manufacturers and Exporters Association (JMEA) John Mahfood is hoping to help small manufacturers to tap into a wider market by distributing their products through online channels.

He told the Jamaica Observer that in coming weeks the association will meet with online retail giant, Amazon to determine the possibilities.

“I want to see if there’s an opportunity for us to sell online and the logistics of delivering the goods to customers in a fast and cost effective way…that is something that can make a difference for the smaller Jamaican manufacturers,” he said.

Jamaica is now among 188 countries including other Caricom countries that are approved by Amazon to sell on the e-commerce platform.

“If that comes through, it will be a great opportunity if we can find a way of getting the goods to Amazon who, in turn, would be able to ship it to the consumers who ordered online,” Mahfood told the Caribbean Business Report, noting that smaller manufacturers have challenges exporting directly to consumers due to the costs.

“[Shipping] from Jamaica, typically, is very expensive if you use a courier service, so we’re also talking to the Jamaica Post office with a view to handle logistics. If that can’t work then we have to look at fulfilling the goods overseas, having a warehouse or a fulfilment centre in the US that allows people to order online but ship from a central location,” Mahfood continued.

He said, too, that the JMEA also aims to increase exports to the Caribbean.

“Not enough Jamaican manufacturers export to the Caribbean and there are also logistical issues with that but not as difficult as it is in terms of online,” he said.

Mahfood, who is also CEO of Jamaican Teas Limited, was elected JMEA president for the 2021/2022 period during the association’s annual general meeting on Wednesday.

He assumes the role from Seprod’s CEO Richard Pandohie, who served two-consecutive terms — 2019/2020 and 2020/2021.

Pandohie, who chose not to seek re-election, described the appointment as a “baton change in progress”.

“JMEA has been very good in terms of a transition plan because before I became president, I was the deputy president for four years. We keep building on what has been done by each president and their team. I am confident that the incoming leader and his team will take the baton and run a blistering leg,” he said.

Pandohie told the Caribbean Business Report that he wants the association to continue to advocate very stridently for the small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), “as they are the real drivers of growth for the economy”.

“For a long time, the perception of many people was that the JMEA represented big companies, but 74 per cent of our membership are SMEs and those are the real people that we represent. I also want us to continue connecting with Jamaicans… I want them to see us as an association that is representing the people and Jamaica,” he said.

Deputy president of the association remains General Manager of Rainforest Seafoods Limited Jerome Miles, who ran unopposed.

Co-founder of Lubricating Specialties Company Jamaica, Sydney Thwaites, was elected as the incoming treasurer, assuming the role from Chief Financial Officer of Kingston Wharves Clover Moodie.

Completing the list of elected directors for the 2021/2022 period are Moodie; senior general manager of the canning division of GraceKennedy Foods, Andrew Wildish; director and factory manager PA Benjamin Manufacturing Company Ltd, Christopher Powell; group export manager at Wisynco, Stephen Dawkins; founder and CEO of Home Choice Enterprise Limited, Kareema Muncey; and general manager of Lifespan Company Limited, Robert Scott.

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