Minister of Industry, Investment and Commerce, Hon. Dr. Christopher Tufton, has assured wood furniture manufacturers that he will seek to increase export of their products, to drive development of the sector, and expand employment.
“We have exported approximately US$170, 000 worth of wooden furniture over the last year and, at the same time, we imported approximately US$17 million. That’s a huge gap. I am not convinced that we need to import so much, and I am pretty convinced that we can export a lot more,” he stated.
Dr. Tufton was speaking at the Furniture Jamaica Stakeholders’ Dialogue Programme, at the Jamaica Business Development Corporation (JBDC), Marcus Garvey Drive, Kingston on Wednesday September 7.
The function showcased the work of the JBDC’s Incubator and Resource Centre, which assists small businesses in developing products to meet international standards.
The Minister noted that expanding the sector and increasing exports of locally manufactured furniture, would also bring into focus the value of the JBDC’s work and its incubator facilities. He said that the benefits of reconciling the trade gap, would be “more work, more jobs and more benefits to those who are directly and indirectly involved”.
“The multiplier impact of the industry is huge, and this is something that should be supported,” he stated. He added that this is the Government’s objective, and should be embraced by all “well-thinking” Jamaicans.
“We have to do what is necessary to push for the expansion of this industry, because the expansion is a good thing,” he said.
Dr. Tufton argued that the JBDC’s Incubator and Resource Centre (IRC) is important, because it has the ability to help improve competitiveness, through the training of local talent.
“Even as furniture makers, you must always find opportunities that lend themselves to periodic upgrades. It’s called retooling, retraining; it’s called exposure to standards,” he said.
He also noted the need to meet internationally accepted standards, in order to expand furniture exports.
“Whatever you do, ensure that it is benchmarked against the best standards in the world. We must stop thinking as though we are a second class country, or second class people,” he demanded.