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There was a time, in the 70s and 80s, when many local products carried a bad reputation for quality, when manufacturers were experimenting on a trial and error basis, when sanitation was not at its best, when standardisation in the country was non-existent, when some unscrupulous manufacturers were engrossed in their profit-grabbing motives at the expense of the poor consumer, when the Regulatory Bodies present then were not better organised, and when, as a result, consumers complaints were too numerous to handle. The poor public perception of local goods was probably right.
However, in the 90s, and particularly in the recent years, there has been a dramatic change in the quality-consciousness, responsibility and approach of our manufacturers, a change in the facilitating role of the Regulatory Bodies, a change in the promotion of standardisation in the country, and as a result, a change in less and less consumers' complaints to be investigated. In actual fact, now there are far more consumers' complaints on imported than local goods, especially foreign language labels and brochures.
The National Bureau of Standards has been very active in promoting standards and quality assurance systems in the various sectors of the economy, including massive sensitisation, education and ground-level work with so many companies in the country. This activity is being aggressively intensified this year through many funded projects.
Local manufacturers are putting quality system into their operations and reorganising such operations so that consistently, standard products are produced comparable with any foreign products, and which can compete with any such products in any market. Standards and quality are becoming the key, operative words of industry.
The Food and Drugs Department and the Veterinary Public Health Unit, both of the Ministry of Health, have played a key, significant role in the improvement in quality of goods produced, manufactured and processed.
In August 2001, for example, six local companies were awarded the prestigious Authentic Caribbean seal, covering 20 top quality products, including timber and building materials, food items, PVC pipes and fittings, and jewellery. The six companies joined 13 others with a combined total of 52 products already in receipt of the seal.
In addition, two of our companies, Demerara Distillers Ltd (DDL) and Demerara Oxygen Company Ltd (DOCOL), turning out numerous products, have been registered to the ISO 9000 International Standard.
If you still do not believe my words, then look at our products being exhibited from the different sectors of the economy at Guyexpo, at the small fairs during the year, at the "Big Limes", on the shelves of the supermarket, and other markets and retail outlets.
In essence, the quality of locally manufactured goods has tremendously improved in compliance with national and international standards. Therefore, there is great need for public perception of local goods to be drastically changed. The public should fully respect and have better confidence in the local production, whether it is in the area of Agriculture, including poultry, processed foods or sea foods, furniture and other forest products, crafts and so on.
All Guyanese should support and buy local products in preference to foreign and imported ones. Accordingly, we must encourage and inspire our children, relatives, visitors and tourists to support and buy our local products.
The Honourable Minister of Fisheries, Crops and Livestock had impressively launched a buy-local campaign. Wed need to build on that campaign and sustain it on a continuous basis. An agency should be identified to spearhead and manage the campaign, having established a work plan, and also, working in collaboration with other agencies.
As part of the plan, the public needs to be fed with vital information about local products, and the quality of such local products. This will enhance our positive perception of local-goods.
I do urge the entire public to support local products and "buy local" from today.