Marketing our creative produce

Every year, small intrepid bands of local businesspeople – mostly from the art and craft, jewellery and dress design industries – show up at the local expos – GuyExpo, Berbice Expo and Essequibo event, among others  – and make their way to trade shows mostly in the region, bringing with them modest consignments of the goods they have to offer in the hope that their goods will find favour with the market. Most of these vendors are reasonably well-schooled in their respective creative disciplines and judging from the reports that we get one gets the impression that their offerings tend to get a pretty good public response.

The main reason why GuyExpo is important to these creative people is because it represents by far the single largest one-off market for their goods. Over time and despite the acknowledged high quality of the offerings we have not been able to stage events the size of GuyExpo in other parts of Guyana. Worse, after several years, arrangements to ensure that items produced in Amerindian communities benefit from comparable exposure at coastal events where the markets are much larger, are fraught with logistical shortcomings. There hasn’t been a year, over the years that we have been staging GuyExpo that the movement of Amerindian craft and food contributions to the event has not been blighted by one logistical foul up or another and it does not seem that from one year to the next we learn our lessons and put mechanisms in place to at least minimize repetition of the mishaps. It is as if we have settled for the axiom of Amerindian under-representation every year. As an aside, it is a considerable shame that the commendable promotional boost which the GMC’s Guyana Shop provides for local food products and condiments overwhelmingly favours coastal producers. Again, there has been no discernible official effort over the years to remedy this difficulty.

Immediately prior to the finalizing of arrangements for consignments of craft and other things bound for Barbados there arose the customary problems including reports of consignments being left behind and limitations  on container space. Here again one gets the impression that we are really no closer to getting these logistical things right than we were a decade or so ago. The arrangements all seem to suffer from a lack of thoughtful planning and the confusion level tends to mount as the time grows shorter.

On the whole, the post mortems of these overseas events are usually filled with tales of woe which tend to vary in detail but the vast majority of which tend to poorly made-out cases for failure to realize a great deal of commercial success. Those items which are taken as samples – and which often turn out to be the sum total of the stock that the producer has on hand end up simply being ‘flogged’ to ‘cover expenses.’ When the vendors return home there is usually a period of time when we must listen to the assorted tales of woe that account for underperformance.

All of this, of course, amounts to a travesty since what it means is that from one event to the next, from one year to the next we continue to make a ‘big deal’ about marketing locally produced goods overseas when, in fact, we are doing no more than indulging in the same counterproductive charade. And when you look at the discipline and the energy that goes into the efforts of other CARICOM territories – Jamaica comes readily to mind – to parade their countries and their products before the world and when you look at the enthusiastic responses that their efforts attract you find it difficult to suppress the thought that we are doing no more than playing wasteful games with ourselves.

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