Carib Export head calls for one-Caribbean export, distribution points
Pamela Coke-Hamilton, executive director of the Caribbean Export Development Agency (Caribbean Export) is challenging private-sector companies within the region to invest in unified warehousing, marketing, and distribution networks which she said can exponentially increase exports by making access easier for buyers from such countries as China.
Coke-Hamilton, who visited Jamaica for post-colloquium discussions, identified agribusiness as one area in which exports can grow through centralised warehousing and distribution arrangements, which guarantees both resort buyers within the region and external buyers a more reliable supply of produce.
She noted that while many local hotels use imported pepper sauces such as Tabasco, the islands produce a better quality pepper.
"Hot pepper sauces exceeds US$1 billion annually in the United States market alone and has grown globally at a rate of 9.3 per cent over the past decade," she pointed out, adding that reliability of supply was a problem within the Caribbean.
CARIFORUM members are Antigua and Barbuda, The Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Cuba, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Suriname, St Lucia, St Kitts and Nevis, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago. Ten other territories have observer status.
Noting that it was currently cheaper for products to be routed through Miami in the United States for distribution than to be collected or sent from each island, Coke-Hamilton suggested that there is opportunity for the region to expand the portfolio of agro-products exports to other markets.
CARIFORUM exports of agro-processed goods totalled US$2.2 billion in 2013, representing seven per cent of global exports for the region, according to Caribbean Export data.
Regional exports of agro-processed products grew an average of six per cent between 2009 and 2013. Main exports included food preparations, sugar and confectionery, fruits and nuts, beverages and spirits.
Coke-Hamilton spoke against the background of a four-year review of the Caribbean markets by Caribbean Export, which has graded the region on economic performance and export readiness, among other factors and found it wanting. The highest grade - a B minus, was assigned for economic management while the lowest, an F, was given for intra-regional travel.
In between these extremes, the region received a C for export competitiveness, D for export diversification, C for role of the private sector, a C-minus for branding and intellectual property, the same grade for access to finance, a D for innovation, a B-minus for global
logistics and shipping.
The results of the Caribbean Export survey were publicised by the agency head at the recent Caribbean Exporters' Colloquium 2014 in Bridgetown, Barbados in November, under the theme 'Building Economic Resilience in the Caribbean'.
The assessment of regional competitiveness in trade and export, collated by the agency's market intelligence unit over four years was done, Coke-Hamilton said, as it was recognised that "one of the biggest weaknesses we had in the Caribbean was the issue of adequate market intelligence.' ... a lot of work," she said, "has been done in trying to not just define the best products and the best exports, but also the best markets, what markets are demanding, what particular segments of the market would be good for us as Caribbean exporters and also what are the limitations, the challenges, the obstacles to increasing our exports into external markets."
The data gathered, she pointed out, will assist private-sector members who may have new investment interests.
In relation to promoting unified warehousing and distribution, this matter, she said, was raised among a working group of private-sector leaders, with positive feedback received to date.
Caribbean Export data indicates that CARIFORUM supplies seven of the top 10 demanded products in Africa, which include tobacco products, alcoholic beverages, cigars, preserved fruits, food preparations, and animal feeds.
For Europe, the area provides three of the top ten, these including alcoholic beverages and fruit juices.
For North America, products provided by CARIFORUM for the top 10 demanded products number four - which are beer alcoholic beverages, food preparations and chocolate preparations. The region produces three of 10 for Latin America, these being animal feed, food preparations, sugars, and honey.
Within the CARIFORUM region itself, the area is the source of four of 10 top products in demand, these being alcoholic beverages, animal feed, bread/biscuit and pastries, sauces, and mixed condiments.
CARIFORUM also features on Asia's top 10 with four products, these being cigars, food preparations, animal feed, and alcoholic beverages.