Fresh from the latest round of deliberations with government at a High-Level Round Table involving at least four Cabinet Ministers including Finance Minister Winston Jordan, Natural Resources Minister Raphael Trotman and Business Minister Dominic Gaskin, the delegation representing the Guyana Manufacturing & Services Association (GMSA) says that one of the “immediate solutions” to the challenges facing the local manufacturing sector could be to have a greater share of public procurement sourced from local agro processors providing the product is available and of suitable quality and competitive price”. Closely linked to this would be the implementation of the Small Business Act requirement of 20% of small business sourcing by government,” the GMSA says
Stabroek Business has seen a statement issued by the GMSA earlier this week itemizing some of the outcomes of the May 9th Second Inter Ministerial public/private Round Table, focusing on the agro-processing sector, at the Ministry of Finance.
The GMSA’s urging that the 20% allocation of public procurement to the small business sector be hastened comes in the wake of increasing complaints from local agro-processors regarding what they say is the unchanging preference among local businesses for importing agro produce from North America and some Caribbean territories, particularly Trinidad and Tobago.
While the major stumbling block to increasing local market share for Guyanese agro processors has long been weaknesses in labeling and packaging, the sector has, in very recent years, made a stronger case for having its products occupy a more prominent place on local supermarket shelves.
Late last year, Stabroek Business had learnt that the provision of the 2004 Small Business Act allowing for the allocation of 20 per cent of state contracts to small businesses would have been fully implemented by the end of the first quarter, though just days before the start of the final month of the second quarter its implementation appears to remain some distance away.
Earlier this year Chief Executive of the local Small Business Bureau Dr. Lowell Porter had told Stabroek Business that the various provisions associated with the full and effective implementation of the 20% provision, would be a collaborative exercise involving the Bureau and the National Procurement and Tender Administration Board (NPTAB) which includes identifying those businesses interested in and qualifying for providing services to government. Porter had told the Stabroek Business that a key element surrounding qualification of small businesses to benefit from the 20% clause in the Small Business Act will have to do with ensuring that they are suitably and adequately equipped to do so.
Minister of Business Dominic Gaskin is on record as saying that small businesses seeking to secure government contracts will be able to secure relevant training through the Small Business Bureau (SBB).
The GMSA, meanwhile, said in its release that its engagement with the state officials had included “a comprehensive presentation…on challenges facing the agro-processing sector,” which it said included “the policy framework for agriculture and agro-processing; legislation; access to raw materials; standards; financing especially for small and medium scale operators; reliable, stable and affordable energy; incentives; packaging and labelling; market access and trade barriers.” The statement said that the GMSA had outlined a menu of measures for each of the areas.
Meanwhile, the GMSA is hopeful that it will secure a helpful response from government to what it described as one of its key initiatives proposed during the meeting, that is, “the securing of low-cost technologies for primary processing in remote areas and the setting up of a modular agro-processing facility to process crops whose production can increase relatively quickly (such as mangoes, pineapple, plantain, peanuts).” A facility of this nature, the statement said, “would help create stable guaranteed market for farmers, push increased productivity and lowered cost of production, and could be a step towards servicing export markets.”
The statement added that agreement had been reached on the creation of a Joint Technical Team between the GMSA and the Ministry of Finance to address the issues raised and that the Ministerial Committee will meet again in June to evaluate the progress made.