Number 1 is not enough: How Jamaica Is Throwing Money Down The Drain

Number 1

The Devon House Ice Cream Parlour in Jamaica is officially the number one place to eat ice cream in the entire Caribbean and number four in the whole entire world! National Geographic’s Book: Food Journey’s of a Lifetime which captures “500 extraordinary places to eat around the globe” named the spot in its top ten.

The notice of yet another globally recognised product for Jamaica raised for me the critical question of whether the country has been effectively capitalizing on all its number ones.

Have Jamaican brands been showing by their actions that they recognize global recognition is only the beginning of maximizing a brand’s earning potential?

Case Study: Blue Mountain Coffee

Take, for example, Jamaica’s Blue Mountain Coffee. Without question the best in the Caribbean and one of the best in the world and yet it is fair to argue that Jamaica has been dragging its feet in maximizing the coffee industry.

Read what Forbes had to say about Blue Mountain Coffee:

A long-admired coffee, Jamaica Blue Mountain is controversial because of high prices and variable quality. There has also been a fair amount of counterfeit Jamaica Blue Mountain on the market; remember that “Jamaica Blue Mountain style” and “Jamaica Blue Mountain Blend” may contain little or no authentic product. The real thing is well known for its mild taste and aroma. About 85% of all Blue Mountain produced is sold to Japan. (Emphasis mine)

The quote emphasizes why being (among) the best is not enough. I want to highlight two major points screaming at us from this Forbes piece.

Be Serious About Intellectual Property Rights

Blue Mountain Coffee

That Forbes article was written in 2006 and yet, as unthinkable as it may sound the Coffee Industry Board only moved to correct the problem of counterfeiting in 2008 when it registeredthe Blue and High Mountain Trademarks in 20 countries around the world.

In 2009 they went a step further with the Coffee Industry Board website, which exposes counterfeit brands – there are at least 5 brands in the gallery now.

Thankfully, finally, “the Jamaica Intellectual Property Office (JIPO) is moving to provide Geographical Indications (GIs) protection for authentic Jamaican brands such as Blue Mountain Coffee, Jamaica Jerk, and Jamaica Rum” (JIS) – hopefully it will happen soon.

While the initiatives mentioned are commendable – we have been producing Coffee in Jamaica for decades and I am sure there are a lot more than 5 counterfeiters out there.

Be Serious About Becoming Better Producers

The products are not the problem in Jamaica. Everybody wants Blue Mountain coffee, Devon House Ice Cream, Usain Bolt’s yam, Red Stripe Beer and the like. The real issue though is whether we are doing the products justice.

It has been noted that “under best practices” a farmer may reap 100 boxes of coffee per acre. In 2009 however Jamaican Coffee farmers were producing an average of 30 boxes per acre.

Dr. Christopher Tufon, Minister of Agriculture, while speaking of the problem back in 2009 noted that “a major part of earning more from coffee is not necessarily to get a higher price per box or increasing the acreage.”

Imagine, that was 2009 and we have been farming coffee for decades.

It’s What We Do

Jamaica has a great deal of natural and cultivated resources, however policy makers and business leaders must realize: number 1 is not enough. It’s what we do next that truly matters.

What do you think about Jamaica’s management of its resources? How do you think the situation can be improved?

Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by (@AndrewWildes) Andrew Wildes, a law student, journalist and aspiring author. Read more about Andrew at MaximizeMyLife.

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