Wed | Jan 19, 2022

Sanmerna looking to Africa

Published:Monday | October 5, 2020 | 12:08 AMPaul Clarke/Gleaner Writer
Robert White
Robert White
Some of the products that are manufactured by Sanmerna Paper Products.
Some of the products that are manufactured by Sanmerna Paper Products.
Janet Omoleegho Olisa
Janet Omoleegho Olisa
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One of Jamaica’s foremost paper towel manufacturers, Sanmerna Paper Products, has announced plans to open a plant in Nigeria.

Managing Director Robert White told The Gleaner that dialogue with outgoing Nigerian High Commissioner to Jamaica Janet Omoleegho Olisa has been going well, and praised her for “paving the way for the company’s foray into the African country”.

“This is definitely a doorway and stepping stone into a much larger market than, say, for us in the Caribbean, and we look forward to this exciting time,” he said.

He said servicing the local market has been worthwhile, but added that looking for larger markets has always been at the heart of the company’s business strategy. Nigeria, he said, will be the spark that will have Sanmerna Paper Products on supermarket shelves across continental Africa in the future.

“We are planning to set up a factory there once we get the opportunity, but before we do that, we will go on a visit to see what it is like and then make a determination as to the best possible route to take regarding manufacturing in that country,” White said.

“There are over 200 million people in Nigeria alone, so there must be a piece of the pie there for us,” the Sanmerna boss shared recently at a reception for High Commissioner Olisa.

Sanmerna has been producing toiletries in Jamaica for 17 years and has expanded beyond local shores, taking their number one brand toilet tissue, the Sophie brand, into the Caribbean.

There is minimal trade of goods and service between Jamaica and Nigeria over the years, with Olisa describing it as “very low and informal”.

She said she has been talking with Sanmerna operators for “a while” about the possibility of setting up a manufacturing plant in Nigeria, which does not have enough finished products.

“Our population is over 200 million, so I believe there is a place for Sanmerna to thrive if they come. So the plan is that we are looking at early next year for them to come to see the possibilities that are in line with their business, but it’s definitely a win-win for all of us,” Olisa said.

In addition, Olisa told The Gleaner that there is a need for flights between both countries in order to help drive business relations.

“Whether or not we like it, the business community wants to know that they can travel.

She said that through help from the Jamaica High Commissioner in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital, he has been able to galvanise those in the industry.

Olisa said a chartered flight is scheduled for Montego Bay from Abuja in December and another one in January 2021.

“We also hope that this, too, does very well and the bilateral air service agreement needs updated, but I think putting pressure on the update will be determined by the level of business between the countries,” she stated.

paul.clarke@gleanerjm.com