KINGSTON, Jamaica – Minister of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries Audley Shaw says that the Government is eyeing a possible US$100 – million grant from the People’s Republic of China to help rebuild the infrastructure of the local coffee industry.
‘We are looking at a grant of US$100 million to build out the infrastructure of the Blue Mountain coffee region, and we are working on that now,” Shaw said while addressing members of the Jamaica Coffee Exporters Association (JCEA).
Five veterans of Jamaica’s coffee industry – John Oliver “Jackie” Minott; St Clair Shirley; Dr Charles Lyn; Richard Anthony Sharp; and current chairman of the JCEA and former Jamaica Agricultural Society chairman, Norman Grant – were honoured at the function.
Shaw made the announcement while giving the keynote address at the function, following an appeal for increased government support for the industry from the JCEA.
Grant, who had earlier given an update on the issues affecting the industry, urged the minister to support a $100-$150-million annual injection from the Jamaican budget to assist in the revival of the battered industry over the next five years.
“We cannot continue to preside over the decline of such a critical industry in Jamaica,” Shaw said, noting the huge decline in the export figures for Jamaican coffee between 2017/18 and 2019/20.
“It is unacceptable. We have some work to do,” he said, noting that coffee exports fell from 536,840 kilogrammes, valued at US$15.1 million, in 2017/18 to 235,505 kilograms so far in 2018/19, at a value of US$6.7 million.
The minister, however, rejected the proposal to stop signing new licences for the importation of coffee.
“I am not here to preside over the continuing reduction and destruction of the Jamaican coffee industry,” the minister told guests at the function.
“We have got to turn it around, and in every crisis that we have there is an opportunity, and in this crisis we do have an opportunity. In fact, there are an abundance of opportunities among them – the Chinese opportunities,” he stated.
“So what I am saying to you is, let’s work together. I am not going to stop signing import permits, but I want us to work together to work out a formula, as genuine exporters, because we want to have significant improve in the production and export of Jamaican coffee,” he stated.
“We cannot continue to watch our local industry decline, while globally, the coffee industry is growing… As minister, I am committed to turning it around, and I applaud and celebrate with those who have been in the industry for so many years and have worked so hard,” Shaw concluded.