- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 22, 2009

MAKING IT JAMAICAN

Jamaican Ambassador Anthony Johnson believes American blacks and Hispanics are hungering for food from his Caribbean island and that those markets could save his country’s battered economy, which is suffering from a fall in tourism.

“The challenges we face are not insurmountable,” he said at a recent conference in Atlanta. “Solutions can be found in the opportunities that exist in the large, unfulfilled demand for Jamaican food products that exists in North America.

“The appetite for Jamaican foods has now crossed over into the Hispanic, African-American and West African markets.”

That appetite is not just for Jamaican jerk chicken.

“The ethnic market penetration we seek is possible if Jamaican importers, distributors and retailers get involved in the sale and marketing of products such as yellow yam, akee, bammy and other produce that they are already familiar with,” he told the National Association of Jamaican and Supportive Organizations.

Bammy is a pancake made with cassava flour, but the akee fruit has a more interesting story. The scientific name for the fruit is “Blighia sapida,” named for Capt. William Bligh of the HMS Bounty and the famous mutiny of 1789. On a voyage to Jamaica in 1791, Capt. Bligh collected akee fruit for the Royal Society of London to study.

Jamaica exports about $100 million of food products to the United States, but the ambassador sees a potential market of up to $2 billion.

Mr. Johnson also suggested that Jamaica might try to tap the U.S. market for off-shore jobs, known as “outsourcing.”

“Jamaica is on the same longitude as the East Coast of America where these outsourcing services are needed,” he said.

“Jamaica is only one hour from Florida and, therefore, cheaper for American business people to travel to. Jamaicans also understand the American culture, and Americans understand the Jamaican culture.”

CUTS IN COLOMBIA

The U.S. ambassador to Colombia is trying to address concerns about the future of American troops in the South American ally, which borders Venezuela and Ecuador, countries with anti-American governments.

“Two or three years ago, [the number of U.S. troops] reached its maximum of some 600 soldiers,” Ambassador William Brownfield told the El Pais newspaper in Cali on Monday.

“At this moment, we are more or less at half and will decrease more.”

The United States is also discussing plans to relocate an anti-narcotics military operation from Ecuador, where President Rafael Correa refused to extend a lease on an existing base. However, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has warned Colombia against locating any new U.S. base too close to the border with his country.

PICTURE THIS

The Middle East Institute is inviting the public to a lecture Friday by the legendary National Geographic photojournalist, Alexandra Avakian, who has spent 20 years covering Islamic countries.

She will discuss her recently published book, “Windows of the Soul: My Journeys in the Muslim World.”

Mrs. Avakian, a D.C. resident, described her book as a “memoir of nearly two decades covering the Muslim world, loosely defined.”

The lecture will begin at 6 p.m. at the institute, 1761 N St. NW.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison@ washingtontimes.com.

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