Instead of arguing over the amount of foreign products being imported into Barbados, attention should be paid to the lack of Barbadian products being exported within the region and international markets.

That was the view expressed by this country???s Industry Minister, Donville Inniss yesterday afternoon as he addressed members of media after touring Roberts Manufacturing Company Ltd., in Lower Estate, St. Michael.

He said that the situation was of major concern to him, but explained that one of the ways his Ministry was seeking to improve matters was to partner with the Barbados Investment and Development Corporation (BIDC), ???to work together in terms of a greater thrust and expansion of the export of goods and services from Barbados into the CARICOM market in particular.???

???We do spend a lot of time and resources in particular going after the Canadian, the U.S and the U.K market ??? those extra regional markets which sometimes are quite expensive to get into. And, I am a little concerned that we may not in recent times be spending enough resources seeking not just to maintain but to expand the CARICOM market that is there for us.

???Therefore we are looking for more strategic alliances between buyers in CARICOM markets and in some instances those who can add value to our products going into their markets. We will continue to work with our CARICOM counterparts in terms of ensuring the barriers to entry are removed, as well as ensure that where ever possible greater emphasis and favouritism is given to products made within the region as opposed to extra-regional products going forward,??? explained Mr. Inniss.

The Minister also gave the assurance that Government was committed to helping Roberts Manufacturing and other local producers maintain, and where possible expand their share of the domestic market as well as penetrate regional and international markets.

???I believe that the BIDC is working on coordinating some missions to CARICOM member states between now and the end of this Calendar year and we will certainly be inviting our partners in the manufacturing sector and other parts of the private sector to go on these missions and let us help to get more Barbadian goods and services into the CARICOM market,??? he stated.

Meanwhile, Managing Director, at Roberts Manufacturing, Jason Sambrano said the playing field needs to be more level.??He pointed out that the 71 year-old company was being forced to compete with cheaper products from extra-regional producers who had lower production costs, which in some cases were subsidised by their own local governments.

The Managing Director cited as an example, a drop in sales of one of his company???s products in Dominica as a result of competition from a similar product that originated outside of the Caribbean.

???And, these are the products you have to compete against not only here but out in some of our markets where we were strongest in the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States, where a lot of the markets have actually been liberalised and you have extra regional products coming in without paying any sort of import duties. Their costs on the shelf is actually below our landed costs to the island???So, we have markets like Dominica where we were selling a lot of oil and overnight we went from selling a lot of oil to none,??? charged Sambrano.

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