The port of Kingston.
VENTURING into international markets can be a formidable task for small businesses. To do so they often need help finding distribution channels, gaining access to trade shows and expos, making contact with buyers, and acquiring the technical knowledge to transform their operations for export. Many companies turn to organisations such as the Jamaica Promotions Corporation (Jampro) for advice. Others have joined Jampro's Export Max programme which helps them connect with new overseas markets to maximise export sales. But the journey to export success is not uniform for all. Some companies ascend to new heights while others grapple with persistent challenges.
To position themselves for a greater chance of progress, small businesses can lay a solid foundation for success in export markets even ahead of seeking additional assistance from organisations like Jampro.
The Jamaica Observer spoke with Ricardo Durrant, manager of non-food manufacturing exports and extractive industries at Jampro, to explore what companies can do from the get-go to know their target markets, price their products effectively, package and label them properly, and satisfy compliance standards and regulatory approvals.
Researching your target market is key to success.
"One of the common mistakes made by small business owners is failing to clearly define what the potential market wants," Durrant explained. "Making such a mistake can result in serious financial loss since it is specifically small enterprises that are ideally suited to reach some market segments that their larger rivals either overlook or consider too small to be profitable."
He urges businesses to explore the cultural intricacies of target markets, their consumer preferences and distribution channels so that they can decipher market potential and identify the requisite quality standards and certifications.
Due diligence is essential for assessing market dynamics, identifying sought-after products or services, pinpointing target countries, and understanding market access prerequisites. The International Trade Centre's market analysis tools, namely Trade Map and Market Access Map, are helpful for insights into market trends, non-tariff measures, and geographical indications of export destinations.
Once a clearer picture emerges, pricing becomes a critical factor in achieving favourable outcomes. Market research to understand the competitive landscape of key players and their pricing strategies is important. Market size, production, and shipping costs must be assessed in a pricing analysis.
Beyond price, exporters should consider buyers' preferences and target markets that aren't well served by competitors.
"Quote prices in the currency of the country," Durrant instructed. "Canadian buyers complain that Jamaican exporters tend to quote in US dollars."
Understanding your export market also extends to the packaging of your products to avoid blending in with similar products. Meeting market-specific labelling regulations is vital, so it is important to ascertain the labelling and packaging standards required by your target market.
"Small businesses need to check with the Bureau of Standards of Jamaica to see if the packaging and labelling of their products adhere to the rules and standards other countries have when shipping to them," the Jampro executive stated.
Effective packaging and labelling are key components for successful exportation. Products should be packaged to ensure they arrive in good condition and are tailored to the target market's preferences in terms of size, units per box, display suitability, and convenience. Bilingual or multilingual labels, like French and English for Canada, are valuable for international markets. It's important to avoid unattractive or insufficient labelling, considering factors such as font size, units of measurement, nutritional details, and usage instructions.
"Exporters should ensure that products have a longer 'Sell by' date for distant destinations, considering time required to go through the distribution channel before reaching the final consumer," Durrant advised. "Often, when products arrive they are already close to the sell by date and some end up having to be dumped. This can be checked at the Scientific Research Council."
Regarding meeting the compliance standards set by Jamaica's Bureau of Standards before entering the export market, he informed that "small businesses should check with the respective governing agencies that handle their area of product".
For fresh agricultural produce, a certified packing facility is required for the shipment of plants, plant-products, and fresh produce exceeding 20 pounds. Information on packing-facility specifications and guidelines can be accessed through the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries' Plant Quarantine Division.
The Veterinary Services Division oversees items like bee products, animal by-products and meat, while the Jamaica Agricultural Commodities Regulatory Authority (JACRA) handles commodities such as coffee, coconut, cocoa, and spices. A JACRA export licence is required once a regulated commodity to be shipped exceeds 5kg.
The Cannabis Licensing Authority (CLA) manages cannabis and hemp, and the Mines and Geology Division deals with minerals like bauxite and limestone. National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) governs scrap products, hazardous materials, and endangered species, while the Trade Board Limited oversees scrap metal, coffee, ammunition, and more. Contacting these agencies is critical for each product category so that export standards are met effectively.
A comprehensive understanding of the requirements set by Jamaica's Bureau of Standards as it relates to all these areas ensures a seamless transition into the export market.
As small businesses prepare for the complexities of international trade a proactive approach focused on market research, pricing strategies, packaging excellence, and regulatory compliance will stand as a solid foundation for export endeavours. Addressing these critical areas is key for an effective launch into potential export markets.
"Jampro's website has an export readiness checker, which is an online questionnaire allowing small businesses to evaluate how ready they are for the export market," Durrant revealed. "Once they have accurately completed the questionnaire it will provide a report telling them how prepared they are. This is something exporters can do before they contact Jampro. They can then get in touch with us to address their needs."
Source: Jamaica Observer
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