Guyana Trade Show in Barbados
Good for business, impacts on wider developments by Norman Faria
Guyana Chronicle
March 21, 2004

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THE recently held Guyana Trade Show in Barbados was successful in many respects.

At the level of introducing more Guyanese goods and services to the Barbadian market, everything went well. There were a few hiccups but the more than 50 Guyanese firms which participated appeared to be satisfied with the inaugural venture. Items were sold and orders taken.

Violet Lall of L-Mart Exclusive Furniture said she is pleased with the orders landed from Barbadian hotels for her fine line of furniture.

Among the other varied attractions on show were handicraft leather, basketry and wood), lumber and other wood products, fruit and vegetables, Amazon Adventures, noodles and confectionery, gold and silver jewellery, juices and beverages, pharmaceuticals, designer clothing and animal feed.

As Guyana's economy continues to improve, and against the backdrop of preparations for challenges ahead in a new world economic arrangement, our private sector people are looking to the regional and extra-regional markets. From Barbados, the show is due to go to Trinidad and then to Toronto.

But the exhibition also impacted on wider, though inter-related, developments. Guyana's trade balance with Barbados is a healthy one: from Barbados Central Bank statistics, we know we now export over twice what the island sends to us. We encourage further Barbados trade with us and Barbadian investment. Barbadian firms may be exhibiting at the upcoming GUY-EXPO in September. While in Barbados, the Guyanese businesspeople met with their Barbadian counterparts to discuss possible alliances, distributorships and joint ventures. Guyana is an active member of CARICOM, the sub regional grouping of English speaking Caribbean States and Haiti and Suriname. Our interests also lie with South America. There will be further benefits as Guyana becomes closer to the MERCUSOR group in South America, as our road and other links to Brazil become a reality. Caribbean firms can benefit from their ties with Guyana in this respect. This is true `South-South’ trading.

Coincidentally, (some people quipped "conveniently", although they may not know the show was conceived over a year ago), the exhibition took place at a time of strained Barbados-Trinidad and Tobago relations (the fishing dispute). At the opening ceremony, Barbados' Prime Minister Owen Arthur echoed the feelings of many when he remarked that, while the fishing difficulties are being tackled, the Guyana trading/investment outreach bodes well for the continued deepening of relations between Guyana and Barbados in all respects.

At the `man in the street’ level, the exhibition served as a reminder of the long standing friendship and traditional ties among the Barbadian and Guyanese peoples. I happened to be involved in the preparations and kept my ear to the ground for feedback from Barbadians. Handing out promotional leaflets with volunteers to people going to the Guyana-Barbados cricket match at Kensington Oval the same weekend, I heard many positive remarks.

"We will come. My relatives once worked in Guyana" and "I used Greenheart wood on my house" were among the comments relayed in the feedback. I earnestly do not believe that the ordinary `Bajan’ holds any animosity against Guyanese. Guyana's image as a stable and democratic business-friendly country was further enhanced through the widespread publicity the show received in the Barbadian media.

It is estimated that 13,000 people, both Guyanese immigrants and contract workers and Barbados-born, came to the show. True, some came to pick up "bargains”. About two months ago, a group of Colombian firms had a show at another hotel. But this was completely different. That was basically a market exercise selling mainly home-help products. People coming to the Guyana show realised it involved more substantial products and services coupled with an outreach message promoting long range development and progress. A big hit, for example, were two firms selling pre-cut and pre-fabricated houses (Caribe Products International and Wood Associates Industries Limited.) Despite its higher per capita earning level than Guyana, Barbados can be expensive for some categories of people. Getting affordable housing is an important task.

The astute housing designers/manufacturers Orin Hinds (of Caribe) and Danny Ameerally (of Wood Associates), as with the other participants, must be lauded for promoting their firm's, and Guyana's, interests.

Much interest was shown by the Barbados Small Business Association and others for the animal feed on display. If Guyana can supply feed, with added value components such as fish meal and at a competitive price, everyone will benefit.

Representatives from the Linden Economic Advancement Programme (LEAP) manning a display at the show were impressed enough to plan a return to Barbados soon to have more indepth discussions with Barbadian investors.

The team at the main organisers Guyana Office for Investment, headed by CEO Geoffrey Da Silva, must be commended for this first venture which had both immediate and long term value.

(Norman Faria is Guyana's Honorary Consul in Barbados)