Watch: T&T Products Removed From Grocery Shelves in Jamaica

After being refused entry to the twin-island republic in March 2016, 13 other Jamaicans, who were denied entry in the first week of April 2016, called on fellow nationals to boycott Trinidad and Tobago goods.

Trinidad and Tobago’s local manufacturers products are being removed from the shelves of stores in Jamaica. In this exclusive report from CNC3’s Urvashi Tiwari-Roopnarine, the T&T Trade Minister Paula Gopee-Scoon says the situation is disappointing for the economy and for Caricom relations.

The 2015 Observatory of Economic Complexity report shows that Jamaica, the fourth largest market for goods from twin-island republic, imported US$730 million worth of goods from Trinidad and Tobago.

The Trinidad and Tobago Manufacturers Association (TTMA) is decrying a recent call for Jamaicans to temporarily boycott goods coming from the twin island republic. TTMA President Dr. Balgobin says the turn of events is very unfortunate considering the strong relationship his association currently enjoys with Jamaican manufacturers but insists such a move will only harm both countries. Balgobin says any restriction of goods traded would be counter productive.

 

Irrespective of the deportations of Jamaicans from Trinidad and Tobago, over the years there has been a campaign urging Jamaicans to ‘Buy Jamaican’. The objectives of such initiative would be to stabilize the exchange rate and provide employment for more Jamaicans.

What happened to the Buy Jamaica campaign?

According to Dennis Chung, ‎chief executive officer of the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica, “Former Senator Norman Grant has been at the helm of this [Buy Jamaican] initiative, which, in my view, has reaped much success. Even with this successful campaign, however, we have continued to see currency depreciation, high inflation and interest rates, and increased unemployment over the period. So the question is, why wouldn’t things improve if we had such a successful ‘Buy Jamaican’ campaign?”

According to Chung, there are a few reasons for this:

  1. The campaign was not supported by policies that would sustain a move towards consuming more Jamaican-made products and services.
  2. Many local producers have not improved the service and product quality to properly compete with imported products.
  3. The manufacturers are unable to significantly increase the production of Jamaican goods and services.
  4. Capital long-term investments in locally produced goods and services is lacking.

Earlier this month, the Private sector body called on Jamaicans to boycott Trinidad and Tobago goods. President of the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ) William Mahfood, says the boycott should be implemented until Trinidad and Tobago honours its obligations under the Caricom Single Market and Economy.

While Jamaica’s government has created special incentives for its leading industries such as tourism, bauxite, and free zones, the fact is that their attitude to capital investment has generally been uninspiring. The policies have not encouraged capital investors to feel comfortable investing for the very long term in sustainable production. As a result, Jamaican investors are reluctant to risk their savings and pensions in business ideas.

But the fact is that if Jamaica’s government policy was focused on addressing the four most problematic factors in the 2016 Doing Business Report: inefficient government bureaucracy, crime and theft, tax rates, and corruption — then not only would we solve 54 percent of our business challenges, but we would also see increased capital inflows and employment.

Instead, our government have struggled for years to implement a computerised tracking system for development approvals. Price in many instances is again affected by government policy, which seeks to extract as much revenue as possible without much concern for the survival of businesses and their ability to compete.

In 2014, Jamaicans were evenly split on boycotting of Trinidad and Tobago goods, according to a test of the public pulse commissioned by Jamaica National Building Society and done by Johnson Survey Research showed less than four in every 10 Jamaicans (38 per cent) are supporting the boycott call. However, an overwhelming majority are up in arms over the decision by that country to refuse entry to 13 Jamaicans, including an 11-year-old girl and a man who is married to a Trinidadian woman, late 2013.

The Trinidadians have listed several reasons for denying entry to the Jamaicans, including no indication of how they would finance their stay. “For all 13 cases, the immigration officers had good reason to deny them entry,” Trinidad’s minister of national security, Gary Griffith, told The Gleaner, as he listed individual reasons why the persons were denied entry.

In November 2013, a campaign was launched for a boycott of Trinidadian goods, following news that immigration officers had refused entry to the 13 Jamaicans. At that time, it appeared that local consumers were ready and raring to stop buying biscuits, juices, peanuts, and other goods made in Trinidad and Tobago that stock the shelves of stores and supermarkets islandwide.

We’ll keep you updated.