“The costs to export in Jamaica is very prohibitive for manufacturers, like myself,” Horne stated. “When you compare us with our neighboring partners like the Dominican Republic, for instance, we’re paying approximately US$700 per container to their roughly US$210, which is a vast difference. As a result of this, many manufacturers become discouraged or simply don’t see the economic feasibility in exporting, which is very unfortunate.”

Horne continued, “Jamaica is a very small market, so in order for us to grow, we have to look outwards and the government plays a vital role in this. I certainly don’t believe that agencies like JAMPRO should be charging manufacturers to export. Instead, they should be promoting exportation and looking deeply into removing the issues that are preventing the productive sector from breaking into global markets and becoming more competitive.”

With the hope of seeing more growth in Jamaica’s export record by 2020, Horne posits that greater involvement and proactivity from the government could fuel a much-needed change for the Jamaican economy.

“Jamaica is blessed with a huge diaspora, and international appetite in Jamaican products has grown tremendously over the past few years. Getting our products and services out there would come at a huge marketing cost to local manufacturers, but with the support of JAMPRO, this could get more overseas buyers to see what we have to offer and feel encouraged to come and do business with us.”

In addition to improving export policies, Horne also observed that there was a great need for government to also look into funding for local producers and entrepreneurs.

“Lending in Jamaica is concentrated among a limited field of borrowers,” Horne said. “We have to look at ways to widen this and create more opportunities for Jamaicans with ideas and the capacity to produce if we intend to improve bigger societal issues such as employment and expansion of the economy. That’s where concepts such as asset-based lending and micro-financing for the sector come in, neither of which we currently practice in Jamaica.”

Congratulating the JMA and JEA on staging what is considered the best expo in recent years, Horne noted, “Expo Jamaica is fundamental to exposing our local manufacturers and producers to international buyers. We just have to ensure that we get as many of them as possible to see our value proposition and make ourselves as competitive as possible when it comes to exporting so that we can take advantage of all those big markets.”

Horne is Executive Chairman of ARC Manufacturing Ltd., one of over 300 businesses on display at the four-day event, which was held at the National Arena from April 19-22. The company, which started out producing zinc sheets has expanded to become Jamaica’s leading manufacturer of roofing and structural profiles, steel and wire products, chain-link fencing, lumber treatment and a wide variety of other building materials.