Barbadian businessmen have not shown any urgency in tapping into the large West Indian market in Canadian cities even though the opportunities there are plenty.
The country’s Consul General to Canada Haynesley Benn voiced this concern today as he charged that while Caribbean nationals have aggressively promoted their products in Canadian cities, Barbadian businessmen are laid back in promoting theirs.
“What I recognise is a lot of room for Barbadian products in Canada. I have visited nearly every supermarket in the Toronto area where I see a lot of Jamaican and Trinidadian products. I go into the larger supermarkets and I see fresh produce from Costa Rica and Puerto Rico but I do not see produce from Barbados. However, when a shipment of Pine Hill Dairy cherry juice appears on supermarket shelves it is quickly bought,” he told Barbados TODAY.
“I have expressed a desire to see more Barbadian products in the markets. I have actually spoken with leading supermarkets seeking to have an aisle or two where Barbadian products can be displayed,” he added, although noting that the Canadian market is French and English speaking and any entry into the market must involve a relabelling of products.
Asked why he felt Barbadian goods have failed to penetrate the Canadian market, the former Cabinet minister said: “I cannot put my finger on what it is. I am interested in forging ahead and looking for opportunities to get products there. We have quality products. I am sure that other Caribbean nationals whose products are seen in Canadian markets faced some of the same challenges our businessmen face. It has nothing to do with airlift because we have flights from Barbados to Canada. Whenever I speak to Barbadians at home I am presented with a number of hurdles to overcome.
“I am saying that we need to stop making excuses and get down to the job at hand. Whenever you go to a Barbadian function in the Toronto area, once dinner is being served the question is always asked, ‘where is the pepper sauce?’ If every householder in Canada were to have access to Barbadian pepper sauce, seasoning and other products suppliers in Barbados would struggle to satisfy the demand in the market,” he contended.
Benn, who once held the position of Chief Executive Officer of the Barbados Agricultural Society (BAS), argued that if the suppliers came together and formed a central marketing agency they would be able to break into the market and export a Barbados branded product.
He suggested that the failure to develop meaningful businesses in the diaspora had a lot to do with how Barbadians have been trained.
“I attended school and no one taught me about investments. They always spoke to me about saving and boasting about how big my bank account was. We are a laid back people and we need to get out of that mould and start thinking about innovation and entrepreneurship. The future is not what it used to be. We want our manufacturers to start thinking differently and let us have some products in Canada,” he said.