Beyond Blue Mountain coffee there are investment opportunities to appreciate in many of Jamaica’s other key economic sectors.
Japan’s annual celebration of Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee Day on Jan. 9 demonstrates its high regard for a product that was first shipped to its shores in 1953. “Today, 70 percent of our Blue Mountain coffee exports go to Japan. However, this is not just a day for appreciating coffee. It is also for generating alliances and building on our already strong connections,” said Diane Edwards, president of Jamaica Promotions Corp. (JAMPRO), an investment and export promotion agency.
The strength of these connections was demonstrated and deepened in December, when Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness paid a four-day working visit to Japan where he met, among many other people, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Crown Prince Akishino and Crown Princess Kiko. Jamaica is a country that “Japanese people hold very close to their hearts,” said Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during his visit to Jamaica a few years earlier. In addition to its coffee, he highlighted admiration for Jamaica’s athletes, reggae, films, beaches and rums. “Japanese investors have an equally high respect for our business environment,” Gabriel Heron, JAMPRO’s vice president of marketing, noted.
Those investors include Ueshima Coffee Co., a Japanese-owned producer and Jamaica’s largest coffee exporter. Another major investor is Marubeni Corp. that, together with Korea’s East-West Power, owns 80 percent of Jamaica Public Service Co., a utility that is the island’s main distributor of electricity and which operates power stations, hydroelectric plants and a wind farm. “A further example is Japan’s automotive industry. Kingston Wharves at our capital’s port is the largest transshipment center for Japanese vehicles in the Caribbean,” said Edwards.
There are also close ties between the countries’ public sectors. The Japan International Cooperation Agency opened an office in Kingston in 1989. Since then, it has implemented many projects in areas such as water supply, sewage, infrastructure, fisheries, health and vocational training. Hiromasa Yamazaki, ambassador of Japan to Jamaica, aims to “further energize the strong bond of cooperation and friendship between both countries. I will seek to act as a bridge between Japanese and Jamaican business communities.” JAMPRO can connect partners through its business matchmaking service. “We are a full-service business partner for investors that want to operate here. That starts by providing information on Jamaica’s investment climate and procedures. We will also, for example, introduce key government partners and the best legal and accounting services,” explained Edwards.
Now is the time to invest in Jamaica
Opportunities exist in various Jamaican sectors. In agriculture, some areas that are ripe for investment are biotechnology, organic farming and aquaculture. “We also see potential in yield-increasing technologies such as irrigation and we would like to extend Japan’s appreciation for our foods and beverages to include more of our world-class produce,” said Edwards.
Jamaica’s rising position as a logistics hub makes it a prime destination for investors wanting to convert its produce into manufactured goods for export. “Investments in existing, internationally recognized Jamaican products that could be advanced is another area that is seeing interest,” Heron noted. The automotive sector offers a further opportunity. “Many Japanese vehicles are shipped here fully assembled. We want to establish a manufacturing plant that would receive semi-finished vehicles and customize them for the region. Kingston Wharves will be looking for investors to make this a reality. Using Jamaica for the regional distribution of spare parts also offers potential,” said Edwards.
Alongside manufacturing and distribution, the island’s growth in logistics is creating a favorable environment for investments in infrastructure, warehousing, fuel bunkering and logistical support services. “Japan’s technological expertise would fit well in our business process outsourcing sector, which is expanding to cover skilled global digital services. Data usage is growing in the region overall and Jamaica is the ideal location for technology companies wanting to establish a regional base,” Heron commented. Japan’s technological know-how is also being sought to help diversify Jamaica’s energy supply. It is likely that about 30 percent of its power will come from renewable sources by 2020, particularly from solar and wind. However, the government plans to increase this to 50 percent by 2030. Other natural resources that are available for exploitation include limestone reserves, bauxite, marble and other minerals and rocks.
More investment opportunities exist in Jamaica’s film, music, fashion and other creative industries. This is due to its talented population and scenery that provides the perfect backdrop for films. Jamaica is also attracting increasing numbers of tourists that want to experience more than just its traditional luxury resorts, opening up space for investments in emerging sectors like hotels, entertainment, sports and wellness. Given the buoyancy of the country’s investment climate, many of these opportunities will be snapped up quickly. “Now is the time to invest in Jamaica,” advised Edwards.