Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Bajan wood importer urges export guarantee scheme

Barbadian investors are upbeat about Guyana, saying that the market has been good to them but one potential investor is calling on government to establish an export guarantee scheme especially for natural resources.

A team of 40 was here for an investment seminar held on the eve of the opening of GuyExpo and while many of them have returned home, some have remained to capture any opportunities which the exhibition could open for them.

Job Clarke, Managing Director of Winfred Trophies, a Barbadian firm which imports greenheart from Guyana is passionate about continuing his trade which he says is financially feasible but his suppliers have raised many concerns with him.

Clarke is hoping to find a direct contact, an individual or organisation, which could oversee the quality of wood he receives.

Clarke has had many bad experiences with local suppliers who, he said, have been less than honourable. He believes too that some local suppliers tend to be very short-term in their thinking.

"Many times we order a container of greenheart and the quality is not good enough, but I believe it is a case of them cutting the trees too early so by the time it gets to Barbados it is not always of good quality," he said.

Export guarantee scheme

It is in this regard that he suggested the setting up of an export guarantee scheme which could help all importers, not just Barbadians, to be able to reclaim their monies as long as they are not satisfied with the quality of merchandise received.

With more than 17 years experience in the wood import business, Clarke said that Bajans were biased when it comes to wood and so always prefer Guyanese greenheart to any other, but they were concerned with reliability of production as well. The quality of wood received sometimes, he conceded, gave the impression that much was not being done at the local end by the regulating authority to ensure that all wood exported was of a certain quality. "They probably do not always put their stamp of approval," he said.

"The same type of protection you demonstrate locally, you must protect the exporters since one unscrupulous exporter could spoil it for others," he said.

Clarke noted too that many hoteliers in Barbados are interested in using greenheart to construct their buildings and so Guyana was definitely assured of a market for its most popular hardwood.

"The opportunities are here and we don't know what the future holds unless we deal with the present and we could look back at the best things we have done and just do it again," he recommended.

Stabroek News also caught up with export manager of PineHill Dairy, Levear Bannister. Pinehill, a beverage company based in Barbados, entered the local market through its affiliate Banks DIH from where the beverages are distributed.

"The market has generally been good to us, the Guyanese market has great potential," Bannister said.

However, he said that there was need for a faster turnaround time, from the time the container arrives in Guyana to the time it would actually reach the distributor.

He said the feedback received was that the customs and trade system was a bit slow. Pinehill products are available in all the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), Guyana, Trinidad and Belize and the export manager has said that the St. Lucian market may be the best across the region while in Trinidad and Guyana, the market share was growing on an annual basis.

The West Indian Biscuit Company (WIBISCO), which has distribution agents across the Caribbean, the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom, is the producer of the famous Shirley Biscuit and many other biscuits found on supermarket shelves and shops. WIBISCO has recorded favourable responses.

This has caused the company to now launch a Barbadian favourite, Tea Time, in the local market. Brand Manager Jeanie Bynoe, speaking with this newspaper from the company's booth at GuyExpo, also mentioned the hold-up at customs, noting that this was an occasional challenge not unique to Guyana.

Eezee Cricket, a trivia game which is a combination of snakes and ladders and trivia will also now be available at local bookstores in a short while.

Barbadian Hayden Coppin has brought the game which according to him has already caught the eye of a bookstore owner.

The game consists of 300 West Indies cricket questions, a board resembling that of the popular Caribbean game, snakes and ladder and participants answer cricket questions and score points for themselves for every correctly answered question.

The game is popular in Trinidad, Jamaica, Grenada and St. Lucia and once Coppin is able to find a local distributor, Eezee Cricket could well be on the way to becoming a Guyanese favourite.

The response is already great and several of the games have been sold.

These investors are but a few from Barbados who are impressed with the local market and hope to establish links with local distributors as the theme for this year's event encourages.

GuyExpo this year is being held under the theme "Partnering for Progress".

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