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: 2021-08-14

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.

The total value of food imports to Jamaica in 2020 was $932.65 million, with approximately 42 percent supplied by the United States.  Approximately 60 percent of food imports are destined for the hotel, restaurant, and institutional (HRI) sector, while the remaining imports are channeled to consumers through retail outlets such as supermarkets, convenience stores, and small “mom-and-pop” shops.

Food/Animals

($ US Millions)

2017

2018

2019

2020

Total Local Production

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

Total Exports

228

 218

219

238.5

Total Imports

843

 902

1,025

932.6

Imports from the US

356

 395

451

390.3

Total Market Size

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

Exchange Rates

128.36

 129.72

134.22

143.27

(total market size = (total local production + imports) - exports); *N/A indicates no data are available

Source: Statistical Institute of Jamaica (STATIN)

Beverage and Tobacco

($ US Millions)

2017

2018

2019

2020

Total Local Production

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

Total Exports

111

 112

127

128.0

Total Imports

82

 67

84

54.5

Imports from the US

 11

 12

11

 

8.9

Total Market Size

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

Exchange Rates

128.36

 129.72

134.22

143.27

(total market size = (total local production + imports) - exports); *N/A indicates no data are available

Source: Statistical Institute of Jamaica (STATIN)

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 continue to be popular, as demand within the hotel/restaurant and retail sectors remain 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.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 that 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 the Bureau of Standards website-https://www.bsj.org.jm/guidelines-labelling.

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

During 2020, the HRI sector suffered significant losses due to COVID-19. The pandemic resulted in border closures and implementation of stay-at-home orders within the country. As a result, there was an overall decline in the demand for agricultural produce, especially in the HRI sector. Commodities normally consumed by the HRI sector such as beef and beef products imported from the United States declined by 63 percent in 2020. Other products that registered a decline in imports from the United States over the same period were wine and wine products (54 percent), distilled spirits (42 percent) and fresh vegetables (39 percent).