With the country’s major food outlets now – perhaps more than ever before – swamped with an overabundance of regional and extra-regional cereals and porridge preparations, the Ministry of Agriculture says that the Guyana Marketing Corporation’s Robb and Alexander streets Guyana Shop is being pressed into service in an effort to accelerate the popularization of similar local foods.
Earlier this week the Ministry issued a release announcing that the GMC had launched “a series of promotional events” as part of what it described as an “eat local initiative.” It said that the first staging of the event took place recently at the Bourda Post Office during which visitors were informed of a range the range of flours and porridge mixes that are available at the Guyana Shop.
Initiatives of this kind have proved less than successful in the past on account of lackluster promotional exercises, though, in this instance, the GMC’s Marketing Officer Omalita Balgobin is quoted in the Ministry’s media release as saying that this time around the agency is determined “to promote the utilization of locally manufactured porridge products among a targeted group of the populace” …with a view to “increasing the sale of porridge mixes for existing brands and increase brand awareness for newer brands.”
If the initiative accomplishes its objective it could win the enthusiastic approval of local manufacturers, notably agro-processors, whose products still struggle to gain anything even remotely resembling universal acceptance among local consumers, far less, a place of prominence on the shelves of the more prominent local food outlets. Critics of an open- door import policy that allows for the entry of a bewildering array of brands of both intraregional and extra-regional cereals and porridge preparations complain that while this is happening local products are victims of a disproportionate level of accommodation of external markets.
Issues of packaging and labelling which reportedly account for much of the external market rejection have been addressed to some extent; still, there is no concrete evidence that those improvements have impacted positively on external market demand.
The Ministry’s media release sought to make the point that the promotion of the local porridge mixes was intended to “target senior citizens” since the GMC “hopes to create an increased interest in flour and porridge products” hence the correlation between the Post Office event and the payment date for old age pensions. The porridge samples, the statement added were prepared with and without sugar to take account of the health conditions of targeted consumers.
Whether or not the sampling opportunity afforded by the event will metamorphose into increased market opportunities for local manufacturers is unclear though a great deal will depend on the quality of the promotional exercises. The release said that the GMC will be hosting similar activities at other Post Offices in Region Four during the course of the year with a view to giving persons “the opportunity to sample a number of locally produced flour and porridge mixes” though it would help if the initiative were to be attended by a level of effort to attract public support that has mostly not been in evidence in the past.