In addressing fellow bakers, Mrs. Chong, who is also the president of the Jamaica Exporters' Association, told the packed room that operating only as competitors will limit the growth of all involved.
"Think of market share as 52 cards in a deck, and it is divided among all the bakers on the island. If we compete only in the Jamaican market, we are only passing around [the same] cards," Mrs. Chong opined. "We must look to multiply the cards, and that can only be done by export."
"We must play our part to aid the national export projection of US$2.9 billion by the year 2019," Mrs. Chong urged.
Immediate Past President of the Bakers' Association of Jamaica Andrea Lecky (second right) welcomes the BAJ annual general meeting's presenters at the Hibiscus Lodge in Ocho Rios on Sunday, August 21. They are: (from left) Derrick Nembhard, managing director of Jamaica Flour Mills; Michelle Chong, CEO of Honey Bun Limited and president of the Jamaica Exporters' Association; and Charles Lewis, EXIM Bank Jamaica's chief officer for trade in the Trade Financing Division.
She revealed that in 2014, Jamaica's imports cost US$5.8 billion and exports earned US$1.4 billion; while in 2015 imports stood at US$4.9 billion and exports at US$1.2 billion.
Over those two years, the baked goods export earnings fell from US$13.5 million in 2014 to US$9.7 million in 2015. Conversely, ackee exports grew from US$11.9 million to US$13.9 over 2014 and 2015 respectively.
"You are all inadvertent exporters," said the CEO of the 34-year-old baking outfit, "as customers will take your products to the diaspora when they travel. You must look to capitalise on this by ensuring that your products meet quality standards."
Plan for Success
She urged the smaller bakers to form advisory boards to guide their approaches to quality and business standards as a way to expand beyond Jamaica's borders.
"In the 1990s we almost closed our business," Mrs. Chong revealed. "But we had the presence of mind to invite some friends from outside the industry to give us a different perspective and guide our outlook."
"That initial advisory board, which guided the company's corporate governance policies, morphed into the Board of Directors for its public listing on the Junior stock Exchange in 2011," she said. Since then, Honey Bun exports have almost tripled in four years, with an expansion into markets in the UK, Canada, the US and the Caribbean. In its third quarter financial statements, sales showed an increase of 19 per cent and profits have increased by 213 per cent.
The AGM was also addressed by Derrick Nembhard, managing director of Jamaica Flour Mills and Charles Lewis, EXIM Bank Jamaica's chief officer for trade in the Trade Financing Division.