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Hurdle to export potential

Donna Sealy

Hurdle to export potential

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Barbados has the potential to earn more foreign exchange from exports but inadequate cooperation between farmers and manufacturers is a major stumbling block.

The existence of this hurdle has prompted chief executive officer (CEO) of the Barbados Agricultural Society (BAS), James Paul, to call for improved working relationships between the two sectors.

“Manufacturing offers another market opportunity for farmers which to date has not been fully exploited. This is largely because of the fact that we have stuck to trying to penetrate our retail markets,” he told BARBADOS BUSINESS AUTHORITY.

He was responding to concerns voiced by businesswoman Kayren Taylor, who runs local confectionary company Mickaycees.

She lamented the unavailability, at some times during the year, of some fruits which were key ingredients in the confectionery she made and said this was hurting the export potential of people like her.

“Going forward, I think a bigger initiative is needed to integrate manufacturers with farmers and not just [talking] about it,” Taylor said.

In response, Paul said: “We have a situation where manufacturing operations are not like retail operations. Too many farmers don’t see what is possible from the retail end and, in truth and in fact, Barbados’ market is only so big.

“Consequently, if you’re really looking at expanding and improving production overall you have to look at other market opportunities beyond the retail market and that is where the manufacturers come in.”

He added: “In addition to that, one of the problems that we’ve had in the industry . . . is that of trying to maintain consistent production throughout the year. That is an issue and this is where I think manufacturers and farmers need to find a way of working more efficiently, in terms of understanding the nuances of agricultural production.”

This, he said, would include “how we can get the types of varieties of product that would allow us to maintain that consistency of production throughout the year, but it means greater collaborations between the two”.

The BAS head also noted that “from the point of view of the BAS” the organisation might “look at getting someone who could facilitate that development, that relationship between both the farmers and manufacturers”.

He added that some level of cooperation was critical “in terms of recognising that in some cases the price point has . . . to be different”.

“This is a necessary development if we are to see an increase in agricultural production which not only would cater basically to our local domestic retail market but also offer manufacturers the possibility of actually selling their product abroad. That really is the prime objective,” Paul noted.

Taylor saw a need for farmers to do more to assist manufacturers, particularly those who wanted to export their products.

“Yes, we can export but where are we going to get raw materials from when the orders start?

“No one is going to tell us they want three boxes of everything; they will tell us they want four and five containers and we are not ready for that. We have to have farmers for that. This is the part that people are not seeing,” she said.

“We have to get farmers now to be on board with us so that we can have these types of products year round so that we can constantly have these things in production.

“If we’re going to export something as simple as tamarind balls, we have to drive all over Barbados to find tamarind trees. Even the coconuts we use, we get from the other islands because we don’t have that many trees with dried coconuts either,” she lamented. (Green Bananas Media)