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Partnerships key to reducing Caribbean’s food import bill, increasing exports- say officials at GuyTie opening

Invitees at the opening session of GuyTie2018

As the Caribbean Community (Caricom) continues to grapple with a US$4.5 million annual food import bill, Guyana on Thursday cited the need for Guyana to seize opportunities for joint ventures and partnerships with businesses from other countries.

“The Caribbean, taken as a whole, has the land, has the labour, has the capital to overcome its most severe setbacks of achieving food security. There is need, however, for intensified collaboration between local, regional and international firms to grasp opportunities which can provide a platform for global market penetration,” President David Granger said.

He noted that 10 commodities – food preparations, wheat, rice, chicken, non-alcoholic beverages, maize, soya bean, sugar and palm oil- account for more than 40 percent of Caricom’s food import bill. US$204 million worth of stock-feed account for more than five percent of  the region’s food import bill.

Chief Executive Officer of GO-Invest, Owen Verwey.

The open-door policy was made clear at the opening of ceremony of Guyana Trade and Investment Exhibition (GuyTie) 2018, the country’s first business-to-business event  which has attracted 56  exhibitors that are hoping to establish long-term business deals with more than 100 potential buyers and investors from North America, Europe and South America.

The President advised the private sector not to be insular- an apparent reference to a section of Guyana’s private sector fearing an influx of Trinidad and Tobago businesses- but to take advantage of “unprecedented business opportunities”. “Guyana will soon become the Caribbean’s foremost investment destination. The private sector should aim at building capacity and establishing strategic partnerships to be able to exploit opportunities which will flow from the petroleum sector,” he said.

Chairman of the Private Sector Commission, Desmond Sears

The President banked on Guyana’s expected oil revenues and unprecedented business opportunities, some of which would be used prudently on the Green State Development Strategy instead of merely depending on one sector.

“We see Guyana’s future in the Caribbean and we see the Caribbean’s future in Guyana. Our economic interests are intertwined with those of the region. We shall continue to pursue regional economic cooperation in order to build prosperity and global competitiveness,” he added.

Chairman of the Guyana Private Sector Commission (PSC), Desmond Sears said foreign investors would not be turned away but his business organisation prefers joint ventures with local companies. “Through this mechanism, we feel assured that companies have our country in their interest and it creates avenues for local companies to develop their capacities and adopt new techniques to become more efficient and competitive,” he said.

Sears touted Guyana’s “vast amount of arable land”, mineral resources and abundant primary commodities that could become value-added especially with the production of oil and natural gas. “With that comes numerous possibilities to fast-track our industrialisation process where we can use our riches to great value, of course in a sustainable way,” he said. Despite high electricity costs, deficiencies in transport and port infrastructure, the PSC boss boasted of relatively low labour and other business operational costs.

He called on Guyanese businesses to ensure they meet  health, safety, security and environmental standards and meet sanitary and phytosanitary measures “that are problematic for some of our businesses”.

Chief Executive Officer of the Guyana Office for Investment (GO-Invest), Owen Verwey said GuyTie remarked that Guyanese businesses have been advised about partnerships, alliances “to help them to upscale their operations both in terms of quantity and in terms capabilities especially in emerging markets where standards and volume make a very big difference between survival and being out of business”.

Hoping that GuyTie will become a “signature Caribbean trade fair” to link international exhibitors with international buyers in the longer term, Minister of Business, Dominic Gaskin said the business-to-business event aimed at increasing value-added production and exports and sustainable private sector investment.

Presentations on accessing the American, Canadian and Latin American markets are among those to be made to participants of GuyTie 2018 by representatives of the Inter-American Development Bank, United States and Canadian embassies.

More than 50 business-to-business meetings have been scheduled in addition to unscheduled onsite and offsite meetings as well as business awareness and information sessions about international market access.