The global financial crisis, which has battered Caribbean economies, is forcing Jamaica and other countries in the region to rethink how they do business. Although most Caribbean nations continue to wrestle with how to avert financial meltdown, Jamaica is mounting an aggressive campaign to help diversify its economy.
The banana plantation in Annotto Bay, about 22 miles north of Kingston, is at the forefront of how Jamaica is reinventing itself from a country that once shipped fresh bananas and other produce to one that now processes and packages them.
"This year we have an export business that we didn't have last year," said Rolf Simmonds, commercial director for Jamaica Producers Tropical Foods, a division of Jamaica Producers Group, which revamped its business model in November. "We were exporting bananas. This year we are exporting banana chips and doing well at it. We are building a business slowly but surely."
No longer should shipping ackee, cocoa, Scotch Bonnet peppers or banana in its raw form be good enough, farmers are being told. Can it, box it — add value to it, government officials are demanding.
"We are having to deal with two significant challenges at the same time," Prime Minister Bruce Golding said in a recent interview with The Miami Herald. "One is how to charter our way out of this global storm, but secondly how to address long-standing structural deficiencies in our economy . . . and how to do that in the midst of the global storm."
For Golding's 2-year-old government, it means shifting focus.
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