With the Freundel Stuart administration thirsty for some foreign currency to boost foreign exchange reserves, Arawak Cement Company, whose parent firm Trinidad Cement Limited was recently taken over by Mexican manufacturer CEMEX, today disclosed it would make a concrete contribution to the economy.
The St Lucy-based firm said it would invest some US$50 million here over the next three years, a sign that the company was bullish about the local cement business, General Manager Manuel Toro told Barbados TODAY this afternoon.
“We are thinking in the long term . . . we see a lot of potential actually; we are investing in this country for the next three years, US$50 million, not only in . . . investments in equipment, but also the local suppliers, labour and energy and everything that we consume. It’s about $50 million for the next three years, so that means we are betting on the future,” Toro said.
Toro is banking on an economic turnaround, and he gave the assurance that Arawak Cement had a solid plan to boost its ability to continue investing here.
“What we are doing is expanding our exports in the way that we can bring more forex [foreign exchange] to the country . . . and we have a plan for it. What we need to do is execute more than do analysis and talk about what is happening in the current environment,” the cement company boss added.
Arawak Cement has been involved in a battle for control of the cement market here with newcomer Rock Hard Cement of developer Mark Maloney, which has taken credit for reduced cement prices here.
Toro said his company intended to increase exports by 35 per cent this year, with opportunities emerging in countries such as Guyana, Suriname and the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), some of which Rock Hard had claimed Arawak had tried to keep it from entering.
“Our investment has been allocated in our capacity of exports. We are investing in our jetty, in our port infrastructure, investing in our product . . . and in the way that we have more capacity for export, and that we have a product according to the standard as required in all these countries.
“Our intention is to increase [exports] in the years to come every year. In that way, we will bring more forex to the country,” Toro emphasized.
He said the company brought in US$30 million in foreign exchange to the country last year, and this year he anticipated a 35 per cent increase.
Toro disclosed that an additional US$30 million would flow into Barbados this year with the establishment of a trading company of the TCL group.
He said the international business company licence had already been secured and operations of the former Anguilla-based firm should start in a month’s time.
The general manager told Barbados TODAY the new company, Trinidad Trading Limited Incorporated, would be responsible for trading the products for the entire TCL group, including Jamaica.
With respect to the performance of the local market, Toro described the past three years as stable, though growth remained in single digits. However, he predicted better days ahead for the local sales.
“Our expectations is that with all the infrastructure . . . in the pipeline, that will increase the consumption,” the Arawak boss said.
The Arawak announcement comes against the backdrop of concerns about this island’s dwindling foreign reserves, which fell below $700 million or under 12 weeks of import cover last December.