The Jamaica Promotions Corporation (JAMPRO), Jamaica Manufacturers and Exporters Association (JMEA), and Jamaica Business Development Corporation (JBDC) export development initiative, Export Max III, is reporting significant progress despite the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Launched in 2011, the programme, now in its third staging, is currently connecting medium and small enterprises with new markets to increase Jamaica’s export sales. The partners hope to build on the programme’s previous success, where the Export Max II cohort achieved a stunning 213.4 per cent average growth in export sales.
Manager of JAMPRO’s Sales and Promotions Support Unit Ricardo Durrant gave the assurance that the initiative is undeterred by the challenges of 2020. He noted that the exporters would continue to move forward with their plans to bring Brand Jamaica to new shelves across the globe.
Durrant said: “We have been supporting the cohort during COVID-19 by providing information, guidance, and connections to opportunities in international markets. The programme has made significant progress with the diagnostic assessment phase as we aim to create targeted enterprise development plans that will boost the participants’ overall performance. Export Max has also engaged the cohort in online training and workshops as strengthening of enterprise operations is a key goal.”
These and other activities are taking place to assist the companies with meeting the programme’s major targets, which include 50 per cent average growth in export sales over three years, 15 trade leads generated per company over a three-year period, and 100 per cent of exporting companies accessing one new export market, among others.
The 48 companies are well on their way. Thirty exporters have new contracts or orders since Export Max III’s launch in September 2019, and they have received training in areas such as understanding market intelligence. Also, as e-commerce is rising as an important part of doing business, Export Max is helping its participants to access online platforms to distribute their products and services to new markets.
Durrant says that Export Max has made modifications to its overall structure to adapt to new realities caused by the coronavirus’s rapid spread. He said: “The pandemic has caused a paradigm shift in how we target buyers and distributors in external markets. We have embarked on a strategy of getting our companies to market via virtual trade shows and virtual B2B meeting platforms, engaging potential buyers, retailers, and distributors.”
The companies remain committed and optimistic and are embracing new technologies that will further promote their brands and provide access to their products and services. The full use of ecommerce by the participants will require some capacity-building interventions on the part of the programme, but the cohort has been engaged, and feedback has been positive on embracing digital business.
A digital strategy will be activated to develop ecommerce strategies, digital marketing campaigns, and digital content and collateral creation. This will involve penetrating new markets and channels of distribution via online channels, the creation of a website, and identifying virtual platforms to facilitate online business-to-business interactions.
Jamaica’s traditional markets – USA, Canada, Caribbean, and the UK – are still the most promising for companies in the cohort, but greater emphasis is now being placed on the Caribbean market, especially since the advent of COVID-19.
Durrant remains bullish on the ultimate success of the programme despite the interruptions that have occurred this year, and he declared confidently that they “intend to make every single company a profitable business and champion exporter”.
Export Max III focuses on supporting exporters in food processing; non-food manufacturing; information technology; and creative industries in the areas of film, animation, music, and education. The programme’s sponsors include Scotiabank Jamaica, the Jamaica Productivity Centre, JN Small Business, EXIM Bank, the Development Bank of Jamaica, HEART Trust/NTA, the Bureau of Standards, Dewar Wiggan & Partners, and Trade Management Services.