Official and public chatter about the prospects which the 2009 official opening of the Takutu Bridge held for increasing access to Brazilian markets for goods manufactured in Guyana has more or less subsided beneath the recognition that while the completion and commissioning of the bridge was an important step in that direction, the completion of an all-weather road between Linden and Lethem was still a factor – perhaps the major factor to be considered if locally manufactured products were to benefit fully from what is a huge Brazilian market.
Another consideration, of course, was the capacity of the local manufacturing sector to meet the requirements of both volumes and standards considerations, though that consideration remains very much a domestic one which it is up to the individual manufacturers and stakeholders like the Guyana Manufac-turers and Services Association (GMSA) and local standards authorities to address.
Long before the Takutu Bridge had even been opened, Lethem had become a marketplace for some amount of trading between Guyanese and Brazilian businessmen and what the bridge did was to point the way in the direction of the significant stepping of such activity.
The National Milling Company of Guyana (Namilco) has, so far, been a standout local manufacturer, as far as seizing advantage afforded by the Brazilian market is concerned. Apart from the fact that Namilco is now exporting up to somewhere in the region of 1,500 bags of flour to Brazil each week, the company has now completed its storage bond at Lethem, paving the way for the consolidation of its export operations.
Namilco’s pursuits in Brazil are noteworthy if only because, while the volumes of flour which it currently exports to Brazil are relatively small the company has seized the opportunity and taken the plunge. It has to be said that the Namilco initiative is just the kind of example that might trigger similar efforts by other local manufacturers. These, down the road, would have the potential to grow into bigger export ventures.
Our recent conversation with the company’s Chief Executive Officer, Bert Sukhai, suggests that the venture is not without its challenges and difficulties. For example, as we pointed out in a story published in this issue, the volume of Namilco’s flour exports to Brazil is still being limited by the fact that the road between Linden and Lethem remains vulnerable to bad weather and that this indeed has been the case for some months this year when exports dipped because of a slowing down in the movement of trucks to Lethem. One of the consequences of this has been that the company appears to have suffered some amount of loss of market.
That notwithstanding, Namilco has still been able to move forward. It has completed its storage bond and is now able to create a sort of limited buffer against the problems associated with the state of the road. Additionally, it appears to have cleared all of the various customs and other hurdles that sometimes impact on the smooth flow of trade. Very soon, rather than have trucks drive across the border to Bon Fin for unloading in Brazil, larger Brazilian trucks will cross into Guyana, allowing for an increase in the volumes of flour exported to Brazil bearing in mind the storage facility now afforded by the completion of the storage facility at Lethem.
In sum, rather than wait until all of the conditions for accessing the Brazilian market to become propitious, Namilco decided some time ago that it would make its move, recognizing that there would be hurdles to overcome and obstacles to surmount, but understanding at the same time that quite, when, for example, we will have an all-weather Linden/Lethem road, is still unknown and that it really makes little sense to await the emergence of an ideal situation. We believe that, where possible, Namilco’s example is worthy of emulation and, perhaps more importantly, that it points once again in the direction of attaching a greater sense of urgency to the completion of the road.