The Central Corentyne Chamber of Commerce (CCCC), with the Ministry of Business, on Wednesday launched its 14th Berbice Expo and Trade Fair, which is slated for October 5th to 8th under the theme ‘Advancing Economic Progress through Professional Standards and Entrepreneurship.’
Minister of Business, Dominic Gaskin during his brief remarks at the launch ceremony, highlighted the importance of the role which expositions play in promoting businesses. He stressed that businesses within the county should be the ones to drive its economy, “Berbice businesses must drive the Berbice economy, not government, not foreign businesses, in the said way that Guyanese businesses must drive the Guyanese economy,” he said.
However, Gaskin added that this does not mean that foreign investors are not needed in Guyana, but rather they are needed to undertake large scale projects which cannot be financed locally. “We need them to invest in areas where we lack expertise and experience. We also need foreign businesses that understand international markets or what come with international markets,” he added.
According to the minister, local companies should be encouraged to join in partnerships with foreign investors in order to further grow and develop their businesses so that in the near future they could meet international standards and “export goods and services to different parts of the world.”
The Minister of Business further noted that the Berbice Expo over the years has adapted to a changing economy. He said that the standards of a business are quite important if persons wish to take advantage of the opportunities which will come in the future, and, therefore, the theme of the expo is very fitting.
Additionally, Gaskin touched on the Green Paper for the proposed Natural Resource Fund, while encouraging the Chamber members to offer their thoughts, criticisms or support.
Regional Chairman David Armogan highlighted that the expo comes at a time when the county’s economy is in decline. He stressed that it is now time for ideas to be put forward to improve the Berbice economy since businesses have been complaining about the lack of sales and profitability within the region.
Armogan suggested that there is a need for expansion within Region Six, especially in agriculture, since it is the one area where the region has an advantage.
“I know the Number 57 Village Road Programme has been on the cards for the last two years, but we also need to look at the second phase of the Black Bush Polder Programme. There is a need for expansion of the scheme, but perhaps when the oil funds start to roll in, then that would be something that we need to look at,” he observed.
Armogan added that the lack of availability of land in the region for cultivation is a major issue. He noted that youths in Black Bush Polder, who come from farming backgrounds, are ready to take up the president’s call to “go to land,” but questioned “where is the land?”
The Chairman stressed that more emphasis should be placed on commercial agriculture, “All we are doing is eating and living and we are not growing our country,” he observed.
According to Armogan, the agro processing and manufacturing sectors are very important for Region Six, “because if you want to have increased agricultural production then it must be complemented with [an] agro processing industry.”
Armogan highlighted that the Ministry of Social Protection has been assisting small businesses within the region with various programmes. Although these programmes are “dominated in some areas which are pro government, it is a step in the right direction,” he opined.
Also speaking at the launch was President of the CCCC Poonai Bhigroog, who stressed that while there is a demand for rice, there are also other areas whose vast potential have not yet been unlocked. He noted that farmers are interested in taking a chance on unconventional methods in farming.
“I know over the years they have been trying to get an airplane so that we can spray and so forth, that can help to drive the industry forward. Presently if you go to some of the dams, and if you look at the rice sector, some of the dams are impassable,” Bhigroog said.
The CCCC president added that the chamber was lobbying to have a model farm for youths, and establishing a youth chamber.
Last year’s expo, which had 120 booths on display, received 23,000 visitors.