Farmers and Exporters Capitalize on Services at Montego Bay Export Centre

Montego Bay, Jamaica (JIS) – Montego Bay Export Centre: Farmers and exporters are capitalising on the services at the Montego Bay Export Centre, which was established by the Government to meet their export needs.

Export Complex Manager at the Plant Quarantine Produce/Inspections Branch in Montego Bay, Dalton Hastings, says agricultural exports via the Centre, which is located at the Sangster International Airport, are growing rapidly, due to the increasing demand overseas for Jamaican fresh produce.

Mr. Hastings tells JIS News that the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries has been undertaking the concomitant infrastructural improvement and expansion at the centre, so he would love to see more players in the agro-industry, especially farmers, taking advantage of the facility’s services, thereby creating wealth for themselves.

“We are saying to the farmers, ‘the facility is here’. We have put in all the infrastructure necessary to make your business grow,” Mr. Hastings says.

“Based on the sensitive nature of the airline industry and the perishable nature of agricultural commodity, you might have delays and you might have cancellation of flights, which is why we have a cold-storage facility … (for) agricultural commodity,” he explains.

Mr. Hastings points out that due to the higher airlift capacity in Montego Bay, in comparison to Kingston, more than 80 per cent of the island’s agricultural cargo that is transported by plane is sent via Montego Bay.

“The top commodity that we have is papaya. This is followed by yam and ugli. We do up to 5,000 boxes of papaya in one day,” he notes.

“Since 2012, the growth for cargo through this airport is about 300 per cent, from about two million kilogrammes in 2012 to in excess of six million kilogrammes in 2016, and more than 85 per cent of those cargo being agricultural. So, agricultural cargo is what is driving the cargo section of the airport,” Mr. Hastings says.

He points out that there is a pre-clearance programme with 52 items that can be fast-tracked into the United States, and urged exporters to venture into exporting other in-demand products, such as turmeric.

The main responsibilities of the farmers at present, he emphasises, should be to ramp up production to ensure they are able to maintain their markets; establish packing facilities that meet the Export Centre’s requirements; engage JAMPRO to get the requisite licences and approach the cargo sections of their preferred airlines, after which the Export Centre will provide the necessary follow-through.

“The Ministry is actually driving productivity in terms of the programme. The exporters will now have to come on line,” he says.

“Once the goods are packed at the certified facility, then they are taken to the export complex for inspection and certification. We can’t allow people to pack from under a tree or their house, because we have to satisfy international regulations. Food safety is paramount, so we have to ensure that it is packed in a suitable and conducive place for human consumption,” the Manager tells JIS News.

Mr. Hastings points out that all the requisite entities in the exportation process are based at the facility, which he says offers a complete service, resulting in very little if any hassle for exporters.

“It is a one-stop shop. You have customs, you have the airline representatives, you have security personnel, and you have the Contraband Enforcement Team (CET), so inspection is thorough,” he says.

“So, you don’t have produce being inspected this minute and by the next hour somebody else has to inspect it. Export is a risk and it is a challenge, but if you follow the procedure and do what is required, it can be a viable business, because we have people who have been in there a long time and they are successful,” Mr. Hastings said.

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