Not easy finding locally manufactured goods at GuyExpo

“These people are foreign-minded,” could just as easily been the theme for GuyExpo 2013 which concluded yesterday at the Sophia Exhibition Centre.

Stabroek News visited Guyana’s largest trade and investment exposition yesterday in search of Guyanese goods, either completely manufactured in Guyana or which had a substantial amount of refabricating within Guyana, excluding the abundance of handicraft and food items.

The reality was that for most of the locally-owned businesses there was little in terms of goods that were quintessentially Guyanese. While GuyExpo is touted as being a trade show, the title should be more reflective in terms of goods that are Guyanese, which is not necessarily the case. Stabroek News spoke to three innovative Guyanese businesses focused on theinvestment in and trade of Guyanese products, albeit not entirely manufactured within Guyana nor fully funded by Guyanese investors. Guyana Brakes and Clutch Co, an East Coast Demerara-based business has been for the past 21 years buying raw materials from the European Union and remanufacturing them into various-size brakes and clutches. Company Director Ushkumar Purandat said that the company has always been focused on maintaining low costs for goods and that was possible by sourcing the raw material and remanufacturing in Guyana. He noted that a focused business plan allowed the company to perfect the remanufacturing of its products.

Company Director for Guyana Brakes and Clutch Co, Ushkumar Purandat, showcases the remanufactured brakes and clutches.
Company Director for Guyana Brakes and Clutch Co, Ushkumar Purandat, showcases the remanufactured brakes and clutches.

While Guyana Brakes and Clutch Co still sourced its raw materials from overseas, the remanufacturing of the product was what made the business stand out at GuyExpo 2013 which began on Thursday. Purandat was one of few business owners that had a Guyanese manufacturing role to play in the sale of his product.

Stabroek News did also speak to University of Guyana lecturer Calvin Hector who was showcasing how bamboo and recycled plastics bottles could be used in home construction. He noted that recycled bottles were filled with sand and were encased in bamboo and cement replacing blocks to construct walls for a home. He noted that all building materials would come directly from Guyana and could easily assist with the reusing and recycling of the vast quantities of plastic bottles that have nowhere to go and end up clogging waterways and drains. Hector said, “This is a model that is found throughout the world and we have everything right here in Guyana, this is how we can build in the future.”

He said that bamboo and recycled plastic bottles were just one way to think about waste management and also showed how aluminium cans can be used to create fence filigree. Hector noted that Guyanese manufactured products needed to be placed and marketed as locally engineered.

Stabroek News spoke with a variety of GuyExpo patrons and many expressed that they rarely thought about where products were manufactured and quiet often assumed overseas and imported. This pervasive tendency seemed to be especially contradictory to the essence of the Building Expo and GuyExpo, both of which are intended  to highlight innovations in Guyanese trade, manufacturing and industry.

One of the most interesting and new business ventures that seemed to take the spirit of GuyExpo up a notch was Beyond-it Solutions with their Silvertrail GPS software and tracking system. Sales representative Muna Nur, did explain that the business is based in Curacao and Guyana, however she did venture that in relation to the Silvertrail business there was an aggressive campaign to speak to the various transport, mining and heavy-duty industrial companies that have equipment that needed to be mobile but also needed to be tracked.

The system works by using satellite technology to track a registered vehicle 24 hours a day. The logs can be viewed from anywhere in the world. She said that Silvertrail already had customers in Guyana both private and public including the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission and the Guyana Forestry Commission. Nur stated that Silvertrail was being locally promoted because it was beneficial to local business and sectors especially the mining industry, “even for people just starting out, they may have a dredge or two and they want to know where their dredge is at all time, because that is an expensive piece of machinery that you don’t want to go missing.” As Stabroek News browsed the various booths, 430 in total with 85 being international,  the Chinese influence on Guyana’s local trade market was clear. While the international pavilion had items ranging from the sale of Canadian flaxseed manufactured in the USA and distributed through local vendors in Guyana to sarees and costume jewellery imported from India and Bangladesh, the Chinese Pavilion housed manufacturers primed to put a lock on Guyana’s largest growing sector, mining.

The Chinese Pavilion, the only pavilion allocated to one country, had booths for Bosai, Baishanlin, Suzhous Machinery and Equipment, Rufei Machines, Yanfegs Plastic Machinery and ACL Machines Co to name a few. There was no booth in the Chinese pavilion that was promoting textiles, only heavy-duty machinery.

While the Chinese Pavilion seemed to dominate the manufacturers’ market the usual large-scale Guyanese businesses such as Banks DIH and Sterling Products Limited, did make their prese
nce known. Sterling Products Limited can be commended for their knowledgeable and polite staff. When Stabroek News was exiting the Sterling booth it asked persons sampling an array of  products if they often bought local, “I couldn’t lie, this is the first time I’m finding out they make yogurt, you go to the supermarket and you grab the other ones first,” Shoba Dharampaul said. She continued that “things are so different now, you go to the supermarket and the shelves have things from all over, I guess I don’t really check where they are made or where they come from and maybe I should be.”

A woman who was with Dharampaul who said her name was Dolly said that “oh goodness now we can’t buy salara from the market vendor because we are worried about the way they made it, but we’ll go to a supermarket and buy something that isn’t fresh doesn’t taste as good and wrapped in plastic for so much more and I am sure it is worse for you”.

Stabroek News further asked the women how many Guyanese-made and manufactured products were on display at GuyExpo to which Dolly said “I haven’t a clue, and I have never thought of that until now”. She continued that she didn’t even know if Guyana had the manufacturing capabilities for the majority of the products on display at the various booths, pointing towards Global Technology, Colyn & Sons Electronics and AN Electronics. The women told Stabroek News that Guyanese were also changing and eager for what the rest of the world had, and it was then again that Stabroek News heard, “people are just foreign minded.”

GuyExpo has transformed in the years since it started. The beer gardens and the stage area still attract the biggest crowds. The various food vendors will be the busiest of all as GuyExpo has become a large venue for “liming” and when asked, a number of persons in attendance simply stated GuyExpo was something to do over the weekend.

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