A team of agro buyers from Canada said Canadian businesses’ interest in sourcing products from Guyana is tempered by their concerns about the prevalence of drug finds inside shipments of local food products.
Veteran trade expert Bertrand Walle, who led the mission to Guyana, said it was challenging and the drug finds in local shipments was the main concern among Canadian business circles. He also outlined a number of areas that local growers and agro-processors still need to perfect in order to improve their readiness to sell their products on the Canadian market.
Walle, of the Trade Facilitation Office in Canada, led the team of buyers and distributors from Toronto and Montreal on a four-day buyers’ mission to Guyana which closed on Thursday, a press release from the Guyana Manufacturing and Services Association said. Stakeholders at the event included the Canadian Executive Services Organisation along with local representatives from the Guyana office of the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture, the Guyana National Bureau of Standards, the Food and Drugs Department and the Trade and Development Office in the Canadian High Commission.
In addressing the Canadian’s concerns, the Guyana Revenue Autho-rity (GRA) said the surreptitious export of narcotics is its biggest challenge and the agency constantly must find new ways to combat the scourge. The GRA invested in two container scanners and other methods employed by the Goods and Drugs Examination units, including 100 per cent manual examination for profiled containers; however, “Players in the narcotics trade have become creative.” The Canadian team leader then asked whether there was an explanation for reports that drugs were inserted into containers after they had passed through the customs department’s verification procedures. He noted that “there is a significant amount of interest abroad among importers about the likelihood of their containers being breached while on the wharves in Guyana and elsewhere.”
Meanwhile, a remigrant Guyanese customs agent/facilitator asked about the absence of the “CaribCan” stamp on Guyanese products which usually attracts a five per cent tariff discount at Canada’s ports of entry. The GMSA’s Trade and Investment Committee Chairman Clement Dun-can committed to pursuing this.
The group also discussed the absence of transportation facilities direct to Canada. Duncan observed that Caribbean Airlines has “opened a window of opportunity” but noted that currently agri-cargo destined for Canada still has to be offloaded in Miami then trucked to Toronto which is time consuming, costly and could affect the quality of the products reaching their intended market.
This issue is being addressed by the GMSA via the National Competitiveness Council.
On a more positive note, the group said site visits have indicated that Guyana’s products meet the criteria for quality, price and taste.
The group was most interested in sauces (pepper, seasoning) noodles, beverages, spices, preserves (jams and jellies), coconuts and coconut products, cassareep, fresh and frozen fruits, fresh fish, edible oil, peas and pickles.
Dr Maxine Parris of the IICA, who was the point-person for the buyers’ mission, outlined the purposes and expected outcomes. She noted that the mission concluded a very involved trade-related capacity building project for local growers and agro-food manufacturers and was preceded by two sellers’ missions.
The initial grouping of SMEs was established in 2009 when the project was conceived by the Trade Facilitation Office of Canada in collaboration with the GMSA, CESO, and IICA with funding from the Canadian government’s Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development, formerly CIDA.
Ten local producers have been participating in this project including the Kuru Kururu Growers Cooperative Association, Tandy’s Manufacturing, Prestige Bottling Enterprise, Mohan’s Fruits and Vegetables, Banks DIH and Nand Persaud Company in Berbice.
In summing up the project Dr Parris said that growers and agro-processors have benefited tremendously from several interventions by the TFO’s agriculture and quality standards technical advisers.
During the process, the operations in each producer’s facilities were subjected to rigorous examinations in keeping with the primary objectives which were to improve the export capacity of their products, to boost their post-harvest handling techniques and to encourage them to implement product traceability systems.
Ultimately, they would qualify for international certification, especially the Organic Product Certifi-cate and the Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point Certificate.