Guyanese women agro-processors, craft producer for St Vincent event

St. Vincent bound

Unrelenting in their search for regional and extra-regional markets for the ever-increasing range of ago-produce being churned out in places ranging from domestic kitchens to makeshift factories, five local agro-processors and a craft producer are preparing to travel to St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) to market their products at the second Everything Vincy + event from October 23rd – 30th.

Their journey marks the most recent phase of what has been a sustained public/private sector effort over the past year or so to open up new market opportunities for the country’s fast-growing agro-processing industry.

Most of the women travelling to St. Vincent and the Grenadines next week made appearances at the two UNCAPPED events staged at the Sophia Pavilion and the Providence Stadium earlier this year and more recently at last month’s Guyana Trade and Investment Exhibition at the Marriott Hotel in September.

The product range which the women will take with them to the event in St. Vincent and the Grenadines include coconut oil and a range of coconut by-products, cassava products made by Amerindian agro-processors, assorted teas made from local herbs, food condiments that have already proven their worth on the local market and a range of high-quality craft much of which has already found its way across parts of Europe and North America. Stabroek Business understands that some of the products being taken to SVG are already assured of markets there.

They are they say, ready to challenge even the toughest critics to view and sample products which they say have been gradually improved through trial and error and which, these days, has been lent an added measure of value by what, over the past year, has been a marked upgrading in the packaging and labeling of local agro-produce. Stabroek Business understands that some of the selected craft items being taken to SVG are already known on the market there.

The women all point to the fact that the opportunity being afforded them is due in large measure to the interventions of the respective Heads of the Guyana Office for Investment (GO-Invest) Owen Verwey and the Small Business Bureau, Dr. Lowell Porter. GO-Invest is meeting 50% of the cost of the airfares while the SBB is picking up the tab for a further 25%. The women will pay the remaining 25% of their respective airfares as well as the freight cost for products being taken to the event. In SVG, the Guyana Consul General, Nigel Russel has undertaken to afford the women both transportation and accommodation.

What the women are banking on is not only the promised marketing support offered by the  Consul General but the influx of entrepreneurs and holiday-makers that are expected to show up for the event. And while the Guyanese ‘Ambassadors’ will each be seeking to break into new markets, their individual commercial interests notwithstanding, they intend to put on an impressive Guyana ‘show’ for their hosts as well as visitors to the event.

During a discussion with the Stabroek Business earlier this week the women turned their attention to life beyond the SVG event, pointing out that they regarded the experience as a stepping stone to a wider entrepreneurial experience. They raised a range of issues including what they say remains a reluctance on the part of the commercial banking sector to meaningfully finance small, underfunded agro-processing enterprises in their efforts to grow; the reluctance of government to invest in inventory to support the production pursuits of startups, micro and small businesses and the high costs of product packaging. Initiatives like the SVG experience, they say, must be supported by a greater nurturing effort at home, including a greater preparedness of local distribution outlets to demonstrate a measure of faith in their products.

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