Our self- imposed barrier to exports

It was heartening to hear from the Guyana Manufacturing & Services Association (GMSA) earlier this week that a group of Canadian businessmen who had come to Guyana on a mission to check out the prospects of buying local farm produce and agro-processed foods, had expressed the view that what they saw in Guyana would probably meet the expectations of the Canadian market.

Encouraging as their assessment may seem, however, it is not reason for celebration since it is no secret that both the United States and Canada have been continually raising their respective food safety bars. Therefore, the encouraging sentiments expressed by a handful of visiting businessmen aside, getting more access to Canadian markets requires that our products be subjected to rigid scientific tests. Even the local manufacturers themselves concede that there is still a lot of work to be done to meet the standards that North America demands.

Based on the post-visit forum report issued by the GMSA, it appears that the Canadian businessmen also had a few tough things to say as far as their assessment of the prospects for the movement of food between Guyana and Canada are concerned.

What the Canadians appear to fear most about importing from Guyana are the risks associated with what is now the commonplace habit of concealing cocaine in just about every fruit or vegetable. In fact, the leader of the visiting delegation told last Friday’s meeting that the delegation ought to have been bigger, but precisely because of drug smuggling concerns a number of Canadian businessmen wanted nothing to do with importing food from Guyana.

All of this comes atop the various other barriers to increased trade with Canada including the fact that whatever the product quality and the price it really makes no sense in even trying if there is no reliable air transport to move those goods, particularly the perishables.

But it is the loss of confidence in the ability of the Guyanese authorities, notably the Customs and the Police Force that is most worrying. The level of mistrust is profound. At last Friday’s meeting, the GRA official present had to respond to questions that had to do with reports that even after containers had been checked and cleared for shipping drug smugglers might still have access to them. Whether or not that is true is hardly the point since even if it isn’t, it is indicative of a lack of trust and confidence in the security systems here that would make long-term, meaningful trade difficult if not impossible.

So it seems that drug smuggling has created its own formidable non-tariff barrier. Even if we can clear those hurdles that have to do with cargo space, customs procedures. reliability of supplies and food safety regulations, when it comes to importing food into Canada we are – for as long as we cannot stem the flow of drugs – still going to have to face the additional barrier of importer trust and confidence.

 

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The scrap metal industry

There is absolutely no way that the authorities could have continued to countenance the relentless pillaging of the installations of the utility companies by thieves targeting metal infrastructure for vandalizing in order to make a living out of selling the metal.

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The Coconut Industry

The recent announcement that Guyana will be hosting a high-profile coconut industry forum in October this year will probably not attract much sustained interest beyond the direct stakeholders in the industry though in his briefing on the forum and the industry as a whole provided to this newspaper, Mr Raymond Trotz, Chairman of the National Stakeholders Forum for Coconut Development hoped otherwise.

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Public/Private Sector Partnership

The evidence that all is far from well in terms of the relationship between the government and the private sector can no longer be ignored.

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Keeping private sector concerns in the public eye

The burden of our responsibility as the Stabroek News’ weekly Business Supplement is to publish stories and points of view on issues pertaining to the growth, development, challenges, limitations, successes and failures of the local business community.

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City Hall, central government and the parking meter matter

It is a comforting thing that sections of the citizenry have opted to hold City Hall to account in the parking meter brouhaha, if only to make the point that its behaviour in the matter of the rolling out of the project runs counter to the very commitment that it made to democratic conduct when it took office to replace a predecessor administration that had itself been accused of, not infrequently, acting as a law onto itself.

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A perspective on the small business sector

While the Stabroek Business has been unable to secure a reliable estimate of the extent of the increase in urban trading over the past five years we have noticed the pronounced upsurge in small business investments in sectors such as grooming and beauty treatment (barbering, hairdressing, cosmetology), fashion, food vending and IT goods and services.

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