CARICOM has been identified as the key market that Barbadian manufacturers and service providers should target in order to increase exports from these shores.
This is according to Chief Executive Officer of the Barbados Investment and Development Corporation (BIDC), Sonja Trotman, who was speaking at the opening of the 2019 Buyers Programme at Bagnall’s Point Gallery, Pelican Craft Centre, yesterday.
She explained that the BIDC had teamed up with the Caribbean Export Development Agency to host 20 regional and international buyers who were interested in sourcing export-ready products and services.
Stressing that the BIDC is the government agency responsible for the development of business and facilitating export, she said that the corporation will continue to place a heavy emphasis on CARICOM.
“CARICOM is a major export market and it is very important that we continue to communicate to our manufacturers the importance of reaching out to our Caribbean neighbours so that we can export more.
“If we are going to increase our trade in the short-term, it is the CARICOM market on which we must place emphasis,” she said, adding that the BIDC will continue to support producers interested in reaching external markets.
Manager of the BIDC’s Export and Business Development Division, Paula Bourne, said that this was the fourth year for the Buyers’ Programme.
She noted that over the years, up to 40 Barbadian companies and 35 distributors had participated in the initiative. “If we add this year’s programme, then there would be an approximate 60 buyers who would have participated by the end of 2019,” she estimated.
Ms. Bourne explained: “What we expect is that networking takes place and that business opportunities are derived from it. Over the last three years, we have had contracts signed by some of our manufacturers and long-lasting relationships were formed.”
Reiterating that the BIDC’s mandate was to increase the value and range of exports leaving Barbados, she said several programmes were in place to accomplish just that.
These included The Buyers Programme and an Export-Readiness Programme, which takes local manufacturers and some service providers through the paces of export.
Referring to the CARICOM market, she said: “It is our major export market so at the end of the Export Readiness Programme, we give our manufacturers the opportunity to visit a CARICOM market of choice where they get to go through the paces of the export experience.
“We also recognize it takes a while to develop a relationship with a buyer or a market to really have an impact. So we believe that our developmental role is important if we want to see benefits down the road.”
Ms. Bourne emphasized that the CARICOM market was a critical one to target for start-up manufacturers who wished to export, “simply because it’s a smaller market”.
Although most local businesses want to enter the CARICOM market, she suggested it was best to target the smaller territories such as Grenada and St. Vincent first.
She pointed out that while the larger CARICOM markets such as Jamaica and Trinidad were the most attractive, they were also more challenging.
In fact, she stated that once manufacturers and service providers had “had gotten into the business of exporting” they should seek to go into the bigger markets like Trinidad and Jamaica.
“We also look at the diaspora, so we take our manufacturers through CARICOM to many of the markets within the region and then to the United States, the United Kingdom and Canada,” the BIDC official said.
Business Development Officer with the BIDC, Glendon Ashby, stated that even though only 25 local companies were participating in the 2019 Buyers Programme, other businesses exhibiting at BMEX would have the chance to meet the buyers there.
“So, there is an opportunity for other local manufacturers who are not here, to also make their products known to buyers over the next few days,” he said.