The Guyana Manufacturing and Services Association (GMSA) is teaming with government in the latest high-profile initiative designed to invigorate demand for locally produced agro-processed goods, much of which have continued to play second fiddle to imported products on local supermarket shelves, various previous initiatives to boost demand, notwithstanding.
At a meeting with senior GMSA officials on Tuesday, Stabroek Business was told that the October 27-29 Agro Processors Exhibition, Market and Food Festival, titled `Guyanese Flavour Uncapped’ will be yet another joint public/private sector effort to create a marketplace comprising key stakeholders in an effort to significantly raise consumer awareness of the locally produced agro-processed options available on the market and encourage sellers to play an enhanced role in ensuring that these local options are available in their various outlets.
Vice President of the GMSA, Ramsey Ali, who has been named as Event Coordinator told Stabroek Business that the event, which is being funded jointly by government and the private sector will cost approximately $22 million to stage. Guyanese Flavour Uncapped, Ali said, will be staged at a significantly spruced up Sophia Exhibition Centre.
It has been disclosed, meanwhile, that GuyExpo, the accustomed forum for showcasing local foods, art and craft and fashion, among other things, will not be staged this year.
Ali, who says he sees the three-day event as a different approach to addressing the challenge of creating a more robust market for the country’s agro-produce, told Stabroek Business that the Chamber was seeking to assemble producers, hoteliers, business owners, exporters from across the country and ordinary consumers to ensure that the ideal combination of stakeholders assemble at Sophia to optimize the opportunity for the event to be a success. “We have even invited ordinary shopkeepers so that they can have an idea of what is available,” Ali added. He said that while the event will not be placing particular emphasis on attendance by overseas buyers, it was not unlikely that foreign entities interested in what Guyana has to offer may find themselves here.
Apart from the traditional product display approach, the Festival, according to Ali, will employ marketing options that will include the creation of a formal setting in which buyers and sellers can meet to discuss issues relating to making business deals.
Ali, who is also the Chief Executive Officer of Sterling Products, one of the country’s leading product manufacturing entities, disclosed that the event will also provide an opportunity for local hotels to press locally made foods including spices and condiments into service in the creation of a range of cuisine that will allow for visitors to the event a tasting opportunity that will serve to promote the produce of local agro processors. One of the country’s leading manufacturing entities, Edward B. Beharry & Sons will be hosting the Beharry Kitchen which will feature the company’s agro- processed foods and food seasoning in the preparation of dishes that will be available at the event.
GMSA President Shyam Nokta, who, along with Executive Board Member Clem Duncan rounded out the trio of GMSA officials who met with the Stabroek Business on Tuesday to discuss a range of issues relating to the manufacturing focus, told Stabroek Business that the Government of Guyana had “come on board in a significant way to showcase what we are producing.” Nokta said that the GMSA was in the throes of an aggressive advertising campaign in anticipation of an event to which the organizers were expecting to attract “eighty to a hundred exhibitors.”
According to Ali, marketing the event was expected to cost around $5 million.
Meanwhile, Nokta told Stabroek Business that the three-day event was being structured in a manner that would allow it to serve “as an opportunity to showcase products but also as an opportunity to do business. We want to bring to this event the primary and secondary stakeholders, processors, producers, companies who are involved in marketing, transportation, financing, and technical support. We also want the event to facilitate wide-ranging discussions on technical issues like agronomy, discussions on partnering, joint ventures, networking, with the intention of providing that space where people can do business.”
Nokta told Stabroek Business that was a feature which the GMSA would wish to stage “every two or three years.” He said that its strategic objective was “to expand the agro processing sector, to build business, to allow for networking that enables small, medium scale and large businesses to work together where we can meet our own demands, maximize the potential of meeting the domestic and wider market opportunities.”
And while the event will include an entertainment input Ali told Stabroek Business that the organizers will be steering clear of what is sometimes the excessive, over-the-top loud and often inappropriate music which has sometimes served to undermine rather than enhance other similar events.