On the surface, at least, it is difficult to find fault with events like last Sunday’s UNCAPPED 1V at the Providence Stadium. The available evidence suggests that the incremental raising of their game by the growing army of local agro-processors continues unabated even if the lack of any real progress in securing major external markets, thereby seriously testing the productive capacity of the producers, remains patently evident. There has been, as well, a gradual but marked inclination by local high end food outlets to embrace local agro produce, never mind the periodic bellyaching by some manufacturers about the sloth of pace in this direction. What the available evidence of last Sunday’s evidence suggests is that local agro processors are beginning to understand what it takes in terms of effort and investment to win and secure seriously lucrative markets. Beyond that, many of them are beginning to cultivate ‘a sense of business’ as distinct from the kind of ad hoc ‘cottage industry’ mentality grounded in trial and error.
The local market too appears to have given a thumbs up to the effort of the agro processors. On Sunday, Guyanese turned up in encouraging numbers (around 3,000 according the GMSA’s estimate) and in the view of this newspaper they appeared to like what they saw. What used to be (during the GUYEXPO days) a preoccupation with acquiring samples and having a nice outing has metamorphosed into an active interest in investigating and acquiring new products. On Sunday, quite a few visitors to the Stadium could be seen carrying evidence of having done fairly significant shopping.
One might add, of course, that it was immensely encouraging to see large numbers of farmers from coastal Guyana occupying ‘stalls’ erected for the purpose of offering their produce. Unquestionably, there is something to be said for more such events and it would be unkind not to give the GMSA/Government of Guyana a significant pass mark for the UNCAPPED idea.
As is invariably the case, however, the successes do not conceal the downside. The success of the agro processors will continue to put pressure on government as much as the private sector to redouble their search for significantly lucrative external markets, the efforts in this direction having so far borne no really impressive fruit. It would be, as well, entirely deserving, if the commercial banking sector could revisit what sometimes appears to be a less than complementary perspective of the creditworthiness of small agro processors, the point here being that the demand that they (the agro processors) continually raise their game carrying with it an increasingly demanding financial burden. The situation, as well, makes a persuasive case for providing more generous financing for institutions like the Small Business Bureau since the present funding allocations are, quite simply, impracticable.
There is need, as well, for greater effort on the part of government to support the sector through an enhanced level of infrastructure. Here, one thinks of the need to speed up the process that will lead to the state funding of a manufacturing plant to help small agro processors as well as the significant up-scaling of efforts to find external markets. Here, it has to be said that when one thinks of the role that can be played by both our diplomatic missions abroad and by a diaspora that has grown increasingly attached and relevant in recent years, it has to be said that the effort of government falls short of what it can be.
Perhaps the best that can be said about events like last Sunday’s UNCAPPED 1V is that they offer encouraging glimpses into as yet unrealized prospects and that they provide evidence of the gap between the extent of what is possible and what has already been realized. That persistent reminder is by no means a bad thing.