Manufacturers have taken a community tack as they launched a fresh ‘buy-local’ campaign on Monday, with the Minister of Transport suggesting that if Barbados is to emerge victorious from its current financial mess, consumers must buy more locally produced goods.
It was simply unsustainable for the country to continue to spend millions of dollars annually on imports, said Minister in the Ministry of Transport, Works and Maintenance Peter Phillips, MP for St Lucy, as the Barbados Manufacturers Association (BMA) relaunched its Buy Local campaign at the Catch 22 restaurant in St Lucy.
According to Central Bank figures, the country imports between 30 and 37 per cent of the island’s gross domestic product in goods annually.
Phillips underscored the importance of buying local, stressing that the economy was desperately in need of foreign exchange earnings.
“Buy local must not be just a catchphrase, must not just be a saying. Buy local must become a habit and a part of us because if we as a country, to come out of this morass or this abyss that we are in, we have to begin and do with all of our heart, support what we produce here, not just only in manufacturing but also in food provision – in agriculture – we have to buy local, because every cent in foreign exchange that we spend is money that we need to keep in Barbados to help rebuild our economy,” Phillips explained.
The BMA has partnered with the BTPA to relaunch the campaign during tourism week, which began today.
The objective of the partnership is to, among other things, promote community tourism, highlight the history of St Lucy to visitors and locals while showcasing its linkages with manufacturing and familiarize locals and tourists with locally manufactured brands.
The BMA saw the “urgency” to relaunch the buy local campaign for a number of reasons including the need to highlight and strengthen the linkages between manufacturing and other sectors and the need to incorporate more technology in its campaign, said BMA president Robert Noel.
“We found it necessary to tackle promotion of our brands parish by parish to allow us to microscopically showcase the contribution of our membership to the building of communities and Barbados in general, while giving us the opportunity to meaningfully support businesses in other sectors, such as restaurants and bars,” said Noel.
Pointing to the importance of technology in promoting the sector, Noel said one of the new features of the Buy Local campaign would be the use of virtual reality “to showcase the historical stories behind some of our locally manufactured products and to provide showroom experience for customers allowing them to see the availability of product offerings”.
Noel attributed the development of the Barbados economy over the years to the manufacturing sector’s contribution, adding that it was for that reason that the sector should continue to be supported by Government and all stakeholders.
Pointing to the cottage industries as critical contributors to Barbadian industry, Phillips said it is time those products were marketed more and “pushed as part of the Barbadian experience not just for tourists but for us Barbadians as well”.
The MP and minister sought to rubbish the Barbadian notion the locally made items should be rejected “because we feel that it is inferior”.
“Why would those persons in other countries want Barbadian products and we in Barbados seem to reject what we have in our country, because it is made locally? I say that is all the more reason that we should support and support local a hundred per cent”.
Calling for greater linkages between the manufacturing and tourism industries, the St Lucy Member of Parliament said he was concerned that more locally made items were not being used in the hotel industry.
“I am sometimes not just confused, but concerned that we do not have more of our local products within the various hotels … why would a tourist come to Barbados and eat the same food that they can get back in their country. Why can’t we have samples of our food, not just the food but the same pepper sauce we talked about available at the dining tables in the various hotels across this country?
“We need to support our local industries here. It is the only way we are going to succeed as a country. It is the only way we are going to get out of this economic recession, this position that we are in as a country,” he said.
Government was committed to helping manufacturing to create high value and “highly exportable” products as well as assisting citizens to buy local, he said.
“There must be a multi -approach to encourage our citizens to buy local which would in turn assist with job creation which we definitely need and boost entrepreneurship which is necessary as we transition Barbados to the entrepreneurship hub of the world.
Lauding the BMA and the Barbados Tourism Product Authority (BTPA) for their work in promoting the tourism and manufacturing sectors and the linkages they continued to form, Phillips said he would do what he could in his power to help champion the buy local campaign.