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Ahmad sees progress on trade initiatives between Jamaica, UK

Published:Monday | December 3, 2018 | 12:00 AM
British High Commissioner Asif Ahmad.

British High Commissioner to Jamaica, Asif Ahmad says he is making steady progress with the trade- promotion initiatives he proposed last November that are aimed at changing the commercial profile between Jamaica and the United Kingdom.

"If everything that we are working on now on my wish list comes true; if every single deal that we currently talk about came off, we would be looking at about £1.5 billion worth of business between Jamaica and the UK - almost from zero," the high commissioner said during a cocktail reception at the Half Moon Village in Montego Bay last Wednesday.

Among the projects, he said, is the recently announced £55 million ($9.4 billion) government-funded compre-hensive agricultural development programme for farmers, which will include the installation of irrigation infrastructure in the Essex Valley area in St Elizabeth as well as sections of Clarendon and St Catherine.

The collaborations also include facilitating access to local, regional, and global markets; value-added inputs and climate-change mitigation; as well as a bamboo pulp commercial venture, which will be spearheaded by a private investor.

Ahmad noted that Jamaica has a large trade deficit but that there is "no shortage of buyers" for Jamaican products in the UK, and to that end, discussions were under way with commercial airlines to facilitate the transporting of cargo between the two nations as this is virtually non-existent at present.

"Yes, the planes are full. We have plenty of people filling the seats, but underneath it is empty," Ahmad said.

"Except for the luggage, very little cargo comes into Jamaica or leaves Jamaica, and to me, that is simply an opportunity to negotiate good terms with the airlines and to grow things, make things that we in the UK and others would buy. So we are seeing this as a major intervention that would take off," he said.

He also reiterated the point he made last November while addressing a 'Jamaica Going Global: UK Partners and You' business forum, which was staged by the high commission in Montego Bay, that the UK was an untapped market for Jamaica's business operators, including those trading in food, clothing, and accessories.

"The profile of British retail in Jamaica is non-existent. In every other country we have worked in or served in, that has been our lead-in to better commerce," the high commissioner said.