Jamaica’s agriculture (food and beverage) market represents strong business opportunities for United States suppliers, particularly since the island’s tropical climate and diversified topography incentivize the production of crops that differ from those grown in the cooler climates of the United States.
The total value of food and beverage imports to Jamaica in 2022 was $1.4 billion with approximately 45 percent supplied by the United States. Approximately 60 percent of food imports are destined for the hotel, restaurant, and institutional (HRI) sector, while the remainder are channeled to consumers through retail outlets, such as supermarkets, convenience stores, and small “mom-and-pop” shops.
|Imports from the US
(Total market size = (total local production + imports) - exports); *N/A indicates no data are available
Source: Statistical Institute of Jamaica (STATIN).
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. This provides an important wheat market for U.S. suppliers. There are two milling facilities in Jamaica, both of which U.S. companies hold major shares. 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.
Exposure to U.S. culture has created a demand for U.S. products, including breakfast cereal. This combined with the trend for a healthier 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 less price sensitive market segments based on 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 remain 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 remain high. Importation of certain 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.
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.
Jamaica bans the importation of most pork from the United States, citing phytosanitary concerns related to the porcine epidemic diarrhea virus (PEDv) and Pseudorabies (PRV). 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.
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.
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.
Labeling of imported products
The Bureau of Standards Jamaica (BSJ) develops and implements Jamaica’s labeling regulations for imported food products as stipulated under the Standards Act. The Act gives BSJ the legal authority to grant exemptions from any portion of the labeling requirements when there are labeling violations. If such exemptions are granted, it is compulsory that the products be relabeled to full compliance prior to retail distribution.
It is mandatory all products exported to Jamaica are appropriately labeled in accordance with the general labeling principles and any applicable commodity-specific requirements prior to arrival at the port of entry. The labeling standards are enforced at ports of entry and at the retail level. It is required that for all imported products, the labels must be submitted to the BSJ for approval prior to exporting to Jamaica. Breaches of the labeling standards may result in the withdrawal of products from the retail shelves or detention at the ports of entry. More information on labeling guidelines can be found at: https://www.bsj.org.jm/guidelines-labelling.
There is potential for growth in agriculture and agro-processing. Locally sourced and sustainable products are gaining traction, and export possibilities exist in this sector. 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. The Jamaica Promotions Corporation, (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.