Not another patty war

From the Jamaica Gleaner

We don’t know how hard or for how long Omar Azan, the re-elected president of the Jamaica Manufacturers’ Association (JMA), intends to put his foot down and press hard on this one.

We, however, suspect that Mr. Azan may find it far more worthy, efficient and efficacious if he expended his energy on matters more fundamental to the development and growth of his sector than in attempting to keep so-called ‘foreign’ patties out of Jamaica, notwithstanding how hurtful to the national pride their importation may be.

In any event, the patties, whose sale in Jamaica Mr. Azan has complained about, may not be so foreign after all – which suggests that among the issues to be considered by Mr. Azan and the JMA in ‘putting our foot down’ is how to define Jamaica and Jamaicans in the context of globalisation.

Dual citizenship issue

Indeed, the new patty imbroglio can be seen as one with the issue with which the country is now wrestling: eligibility to sit in Parliament. Many people find it unfair that the Constitution precludes Jamaicans who, by their own action, owe allegiance to a foreign power. In others words, dual citizens have a problem.

The imported patties that raised Mr. Azan’s ire were manufactured in the USA by a company called Caribbean Food Delights which, we suspect, is the same one owned by the Hosang family, headed by Vincent Hosang.

Vincent Hosang happens to be a Jamaican who emigrated to the United States as an adult and has built a successful baking and food business. He remains deeply involved in the Jamaican community in the USA and at ‘home’. In November 2005, Vincent Hosang received the Gleaner Company’s Honour Award for Business.

Should the Caribbean Delights of Vincent Hosang be the same one that exported patties to Jamaica, it would complicate matters for the JMA in pursuing the restrictions that Mr. Azan implied to be its intention. But we believe that the more fundamental issues are the ones raised by Karl Samuda, the commerce minister.

Serious work to do

First is the fact that patties brought into Jamaica may have been competitive with those made here. Should that be the case, it would seem to us that Mr Azan and his JMA members have very serious work to do in determining why it should be so. And they should be plonking their feet down to enhance domestic efficiencies, including, where necessary, getting the administration to implement appropriate policies.

The second point relates to the first.

The best way for domestic producers to grow market share is not to restrict entry, except for the most exceptional of circumstances, but to ensure they produce the best products of the highest quality at competitive prices. Of course, we know that the patties produced in Jamaica are of the highest quality, and we had assumed that they were cost-competitive.

Since we have heard no complaints to the contrary, or of threats to the ‘domestic’ industry from imports, we assume that this continues to be the case. But clearly, patty makers here cannot rest on their laurels.

In the meantime, Mr. Azan might find better ways and things to do to build manufacturing than starting another ‘Patty War’.