(Jamaica Observer) The commerce ministry has committed J$100 million over the next three years towards the furniture industry, which aims to claw back some share of the multi-million dollar sector overwhelmingly dominated by imports.
The industry, which employs more than 4,000 persons, but only managed to export US$170,000 (J$14.6 million) of furniture last year compared to the US$170 million imported.
Harold Davis, executive director of the JBDC, said the project was specifically aimed at tackling issues that have been deemed among the most debilitating to the industry. Among the problems that he listed were limited access to markets, inconsistency of support services and systems and the lack of strict, codified best practices among stakeholders.
Davis said that effecting much needed change was hinged on a collaborative approach to development being taken, which will in turn promote job and wealth creation for the sector.
Christopher Tufton, Minister of Industry, Investments and Commerce stated that the project was a step in the right direction, perhaps the first of many in curtailing the disproportion in value between the furniture that we export and that which we import.
“We need to do more in terms of stimulating and facilitating small businesses”.
With that call Tufton sought to address stakeholders i n the much-diminished furniture and wooden products sector.
Tufton, special guest at the Furniture Jamaica’s Stakeholders’ Dialogue, said too often the smaller players in the manufacturing sector are overlooked in favour of larger enterprises. This he said is an untenable position as micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) are among the biggest contributors to the productive sector.
He was not short of critical observations, insisting that in the last two to three decades, the sector has not gotten it right in exploiting the possibilities available, adding that the entrepreneurial spirit has been stifled by the focus on macroeconomic endeavours.
The dialogue was held against the backdrop of the recently completed market research for the furniture and wooden products sector.