Mistress of Ceremonies was Attorney-At-Law, Dahlia Walker-Huntington who kicked things off where she introduced the audience to the Jamaica USA Chamber Of Commerce (COC) and the Movers and ShakersBreakfast. Walker-Huntington stressed current plans that the COC has in bringing more young business persons into the chamber.
The Consul General soon graced the podium and informed the group of the importance of the COC for Jamaica and the Diaspora, at which point she acknowledged Marlon Hill, Diaspora Advisory Board representative for the South Eastern United States, Dr. Dana Morris Dixon. Vice President of Planning & Corporate Development at JAMPRO, community leaders and Media from outside Florida. Grant-Griffiths made sure to emphasize the importance of the North American Market to Jamaica and that the Diaspora has a great opportunity to impact that market.
President of the Jamaica USA COC Marie Gill in her presentation introduced the COC to the audience and declared that the COC was a â€œvibrant organizationÂ. She outlined past projects and others they intend to implement in the future. Gill made it clear that the Jamaica USA COC was positioning itself as the preferred place of contact in the USA if persons wished to do business in Jamaica, and vice versa. In closing she made a quick membership solicitation to those in attendance. She then introduced the keynote speaker, Dr. Christopher Tufton.
Dr. Tufton was warmly received by attendees. Tufton, who was until earlier this year Minister of Agriculture for the governing Jamaica Labour Party (JLP), has been positively acclaimed for the post he has held over the past four years. This translates well as, according to the Minister, in his new post, he has to raise investment in the area of agriculture.
Dr. Tufton demonstrated that Jamaica has a great opportunity to make great gains in the trade of agricultural goods. He shared some of the challenges that he experienced and addressed as Minister of Agriculture, and these included the need for a â€œlink between primary production and the value-added assetsÂ and that â€œ75% of the farmers output became raw materials. Looking at the last challenge, Dr Tufton reasoned that â€œpost-harvest management becomes very important to avoid spoilageÂ. With Agriculture employing 20% of the Jamaican population, taking the agricultural industry to the next level is of great importance.
Dr. Tufton declared that Agriculture has not received the attention it deserves. He stated that one of the ways to combat this is by changing the way things were done in Agriculture. While Tufton was in his former post, there was an introduction of Green House technologies, and in his new post he plans to make significant investment in Jamaicas Green House technologies. Such technologies can â€œbuffer against erratic weather patterns that affect production.Â This could lead to larger output and a drop in the need to import some foodstuff.
He also spoke of improvements in the national irrigation system that not only improves the output quality, but also creates investment opportunities. Tufton shared with the audience improvements in standards that will positively impact harvest yield and investment attractiveness. He also spoke of macro-economic factors that are ideal for investors (such as interest rates, foreign exchange and crime).
Other areas covered included land reform and being competitive on the world market. One topic he covered that instantly brought a response was the mention of divestment of certain industries such as cocoa, spices and hot pepper. Referencing past divestments of profitable industries; the question referred to making sure potential investors make decisions that are positive for said industries and by extension Jamaica.
Tufton responded by invoking Air Jamaica, which is understandably a hot topic, but went on to say that potential investors will be held accountable for behavior that is positive to the respective industries. This comment drew a wait and see look from many persons in the audience. After a few more questions the Minister wrapped up and met one and one with attendees, after which he was whisked away to do a tour of businesses in the Miami area that are either run by Jamaicans and/or sell Jamaican products.
Attendees included Aston Lue, CEO and owner of Ocho Rios Foods, Luis Montano, Business Development Manager at American Airlines, L. George Yap, Chairman & CEO of LEASA, Winsom Charlton of WAVS AM, Glenville Huntington, Managing Director at Huntington Hospitality Overseas Placement, Cheryl Winter of Jamaica Information Service, among others.