The Government of Jamaica hopes to access US$100 million ($13.4 billion) in grant funding from China to improve the Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee line of products, and on a larger scale, the local coffee industry.

“I have already had discussions with the present owner of a large part of the Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee system [in furtherance of this]. He has indicated to me that he is willing to look at us finding another partner to work with him to more aggressively build out the coffee industry,” Agriculture minister, Audley Shaw told the House of Representatives on Tuesday.

Shaw told legislators that similar partnerships are to be formed to build out other industries, including cocoa and pimento.

He said that a memorandum of understanding has been signed for the establishment of an agro-economic zone at Holland in St Elizabeth, and that a similar agro-park in the parish, located at Ridge Pen in Hounslow, will be launched later in the fiscal year with a focus on the production of hot peppers and vegetables.

The new Spring Gardens agro-park in Portland is 80 per cent established,” Shaw said.

According to the minister, the Small Business Development Centre (SBDC) model will continue to be rolled out during this fiscal year, in the hope of reaching university students and others across the island.

“Memoranda of agreements were signed with three entities for the establishment of SBDCs in Manchester at Northern Caribbean University (NCU), in Kingston at the Caribbean Maritime University (CMU), and in Trelawny at the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA) office,” Shaw added.

An additional Jamaica Business Development Corporation (JBDC) office was established during the last financial year to serve as an SBDC centre. Plans are to construct five more centres across the island during the 2019/20 fiscal year.

“Big things are happening in our small business sector, and we are determined to make even bigger things happen,” Shaw said, adding that the micro, small and medium-sized enterprise (MSME) sector, which is associated with the SBDC model, is a major catalyst in any effort to induce inclusive growth, social development and job creation. He was speaking on the theme 'On the Road to Prosperity…Growing Jamaica's Industries'.

Shaw told Parliament that the sector is indispensable to achieving broad-based and inclusive growth and that it is critical to the transformational growth envisioned for other sectors of the economy, such as manufacturing, agriculture, logistics, offshore services and tourism.

During the financial year 2018/19, several developments were overseen by the minister, including the MSME and Entrepreneurship Policy and Five-Year Implementation Plan that was tabled in Parliament as a White Paper in July 2018.