Jamaica - Country Commercial Guide
Agriculture

This is a best prospect industry sector for this country.  Includes a market overview and trade data.

Last published date: 2020-10-21

Overview

Jamaica’s agriculture (food and beverage) market represents good business opportunities for United States suppliers, particularly since the island’s tropical climate and diversified topography incentivize the production of crops that differ largely from those grown in the cooler climates of the United States.

During 2019, the total value of food imports to Jamaica was $1.025 billion, with approximately 44 percent of these imports supplied via sources in the United States.  Approximately 60 percent of food imports are supplied to the hotel, restaurant, and institutional (HRI) sector.  The remaining imports are channeled to consumers via retail outlets such as supermarkets, convenience stores, and small “mom-and-pop” shops.

 

Food/Animals

($ US Millions)

2016

2017

2018

2019

Total Local Production

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

Total Exports

229

228

 218

219

Total Imports

853

843

 902

1,025

Imports from the US

383

356

 395

451

Total Market Size

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

Exchange Rates

125.14

128.36

 129.72

134.22

(total market size = (total local production + imports) - exports)

Source: Statistical Institute of Jamaica (STATIN)

*N/A indicates no data is available

 

Beverage and Tobacco

($ US Millions)

2016

2017

2018

2019

Total Local Production

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

Total Exports

89

111

 112

127

Total Imports

74

82

 67

84

Imports from the US

11

 11

 12

11

(average of 14 percent of total imports

Total Market Size

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

Exchange Rates

125.14

128.36

 129.72

134.22

(total market size = (total local production + imports) - exports)

Source: Statistical Institute of Jamaica (STATIN)

*N/A indicates no data is available

General information on Jamaica’s retail and hotel sectors and the demand for U.S. food and beverages is available at the U.S. Department of Agriculture website.

Leading Sub-Sectors

Grains & Soybeans

Wheat flour is a major staple in Jamaica, with the country listed among the highest per capita consumers of flour and flour based products in the world, providing an important market for U.S. suppliers.  There are two milling facilities in Jamaica, both of which have major shareholding by U.S. companies.  This gives U.S. wheat and grains an advantage in the market, both as the source of primary inputs as well as the potential for forward integration.  However, wheat flour from Canada competes with U.S. imports in the fine bakery segment of the market.

The exposure to U.S. culture has created a demand for U.S. products, including breakfast cereal.  This combined with the trend to a more healthy diet has led to increased consumption of breakfast cereals and non-dairy milk substitutes (such as soy and almond milk).  Higher priced U.S. cereals are positioned in the less price-sensitive market segments on the basis of quality.  Breakfast cereals from Trinidad and Tobago, a major supplier, are positioned in the lower-priced category.

Demand for soybean, soybean meal and coarse grain is largely driven by the livestock sub-sector, particularly the poultry industry.  Imports of these products are expected to be strong as Jamaican demand for poultry is high, with chicken remaining the primary source of protein.

Fruits & Vegetables

Importation of fruits and vegetables continues to be popular, as demand within the hotel/restaurant and retail sectors remains high.  Importation of particular fruits (apples, pears, strawberries, plums, kiwis) and vegetables (broccoli, asparagus, spinach) is expected to continue to grow as there are few suitable areas to successfully cultivate these crops in Jamaica.  However, other imported products, such as tomatoes, carrots, cabbages, melons, lettuce, and other fruits and vegetables that compete directly with local products are less competitive, and Jamaica’s Safeguard Act of 2001 further advantages local producers.  Imports of these products, however, can increase during periods of shortages. Imported garlic and capsicums will remain competitive since local production is limited.

Meats

Demand for prime beef cuts comes primarily from the hotel industry, especially since high tariffs play a key role in limiting per capita imported beef consumption among Jamaicans.  Jamaicans are, however,  one of the highest per capita consumers of chicken.  Chicken is primarily produced locally due to high import duties, although necks and backs may enter duty-free.  Goat meat is also a principal component of local cuisine.  Mutton and goat imports have been growing in importance among Jamaicans, but this market is price sensitive.

The GOJ bans the importation of most pork from the United States, citing phytosanitary concerns related to the porcine epidemic diarrhea virus (PEDv).  While U.S. pork had previously been determined to be of “negligible risk” for importation into Jamaica, and the U.S. food safety system already mitigates the risk of transferring PEDv through the exportation of pork products, the Jamaican ban remains in effect. 

Currently only imports of processed U.S. pork that have been “hermetically sealed” are permitted.

Alcohol

The demand for wines and spirits in Jamaica is driven by the hotel and restaurant sub-sector.  The presence of all-inclusive hotels in Jamaica favors low-cost producers, which typically does not include U.S. wine.  In recent years, U.S. brands have made small gains in market share, and their consumption can be expected to increase in the medium to long term.  The United States competes with European producers in Jamaica’s sparkling wine market, and with producers from Australia, Europe, and South America in the market for other wine products. Jamaica annually imports over one million liters of vodka, brandy, gin, and other spirits.  The Jamaican consumer generally has shown a preference for local rum over imported spirits.  Heineken N.V., which owns locally-produced Red Stripe beer, is the dominant player in beer, offering Heineken and Guinness as well.  High import duties on alcohol inhibits U.S. competition with domestic producers of beer and spirits.

Prepared Snacks

Trinidad and Tobago and Barbados are major suppliers of snack foods to the Jamaican market, protected by a 20 percent Common External Tariff on all snack products originating outside of CARICOM.  However, U.S. products do compete based on quality and strong brand identification.  Grocery stores across Jamaica carry a wide range of U.S. brands and hoteliers in Jamaica’s tourist centers routinely purchase U.S. food products to satisfy guests’ expectations.

Opportunities

Jamaica’s agriculture policy seeks to diversify the production of agricultural goods to build self-sufficiency, promote exports, and service the growing tourism industry.  Jamaica’s challenge is the inability to produce significant quantities of consistent high-quality agricultural goods.  There are opportunities in agricultural innovation and developing the supply chain to counter these challenges.  JAMPRO facilitates investment in key products, including: yam, turmeric, Irish potato, sheep, cocoa, coffee, pineapple, onion, ginger and honey, as they are considered strategically important.

Effects of the COVID -19 Pandemic on U.S agricultural and food exports to Jamaica

The COVID-19 virus may have a negative impact on Jamaican imports of U.S. food and agricultural products in 2020.  The hotel, restaurant and institutional (HRI) sector represents approximately 60 percent of Jamaica’s food imports, and border closings and the implementation of stay at home orders have negatively impacted this important sector.  Imports that are destined for the HRI sector, and which may see a decline in 2020, include meat products, fruits and vegetables, and wines.