Joint government/private sector efforts to enhance entrepreneurial ties between local business entities and external investors still continue to fall short of the success that it seeks though there are encouraging signs that local commodities, notably agro-processed goods are beginning to attract the attention of the international market, according to a recently released Report on last September’s inaugural Guyana Trade and Investment Exposition (GUYTIE) staged at the Marriott Hotel in Kingston.
The Report on the four-day event – staged by the Ministry of Business in collaboration with the Guyana Office for Investment (GO-Invest), Caribbean Export Development Agency (Caribbean Export) and local business support organizations, while asserting that it “achieved its goals and objectives and met a large percentage of its key performance indicators said that while the forum established more than fifty “trade leads,” only one “trade contract” was signed. The Report asserted, nonetheless, that the event served as “a catalyst for several companies to penetrate markets that they have been trying to enter without success.” It had listed as its objectives the promotion of ‘packaged local investment
opportunities for foreign direct investment and local investment, preparing and promoting export-ready firms to export markets and highlighting Guyana as a “preferred destination for business.”
Statistics published in the Report indicated that 113 “buyers” and 56 “exhibitors” participated in the event, over which period 200 Business to Business meeting were held and one deal signed. Meanwhile, the event realised 50 “trade leads” and attracted 16 sponsors and 454 visitors.
Among the noteworthy accomplishments of GUYTIE listed in the Report were the signing of a contract between the Cuban pharmaceutical company FarmaCuba and the local distributor W&T George Healthcare Solutions Inc. for the distribution of the Cuban entity’s pharmaceuticals in Guyana. The Report also states that the local company, Roy’s Spices has commenced negotiations with “a Canadian buyer” to export their products to a market in Canada while another local entity, Comfort Sleep, has been able to gain footing in the St. Lucian and Cuban markets. Meanwhile, the state-run South Korean company KOTRA, made 10 leads with locally-based companies and is currently “working with” Beharry and Massy, the Report says.
The organizers of the GUYTIE event are also reporting that Cutters of Barbados has showed “great interest” in both Banks DIH and DDL in its search for “a supply of bulk rum to use as an ingredient in the production of their existing line of rum punch.”
While the widely publicised event attracted just 10 small businesses, all of which were subsidized by the Small Business Bureau (SBB), the Report pointed to the attention which local condiments, spices and cosmetics attracted as well as the impression which some of the products created during a visit to St. Vincent by six of the group to attend last year’s Everything Vincy Expo. Arising out of participation in the St. Vincent event, one of the companies, Nature’s Finest, which specializes in the manufacture of herbal teas was invited to attend the Canadian Tea Festival. Stabroek Business understands that possible Canadian investor interest could derive from that visit. Meanwhile, the local craft producers, Amazon Authentic secured an invitation through Voyager, St. Vincent’s largest Souvenir Store to attend their annual event on the tourist island of Mustique. Stabroek Business understands that at least one other of the local small businesses represented at the Everything Vincy Expo has attracted external investor interest.
At the November 12-14 post-evaluation fora, public and private sector participants listed inadequate “public awareness of the event,” limited booth spaces, poor buyer turnout, late registration by participants and the limited effectiveness of the event website, which, the Report said, was considered by participants to be the “biggest disappointment.” The Marriott Hotel which played host to the event also comes in for criticism over unsatisfactory booth placement and limited exhibition space, deficient “directional signage” and “limited and expensive” canteen services.
Arising out of the post-evaluation fora the organizers contemplated whether the event should not be opened to international exhibitors with a view to opening it to “more investment opportunities and new technologies and innovations”
Some measure of acknowledgement of the limitations of the first ever instalment of GUYTIE is reflected in the disclosure that Caribbean Export has agreed to provide support to the GUYTIE Secretariat in order to ensure that Business to Business meetings “in the next iteration” of GUYTIE are “effectively and efficiently” managed. Meanwhile, with the organizers having encountered unspecified challenges in collecting evaluation questionnaires from exhibitors and buyers, the post-event probe agreed on the need to find an improved method to conduct surveys and evaluations. Other recommendations address the need to reduce what the Report says was the “challenging” cost of participation for some exhibitors and allow more time for planning. In the latter regard the Report said that “while many aspects of GUYTIE were well-executed others were not, due to challenges posed by (a) tight timeline.” During their evaluation of the outcomes of the GUYTIE event the organizers also agreed that it was desirable to commence planning immediately for the next iteration of GUYTIE.