Officials are eager to see more local products and services being sold throughout the region. And with the Barbados Investment and Development Corporation’s (BIDC) annual Buyers’ Programme, organizers are hoping local manufacturers will form lasting partnerships with regional and international buyers that will result in more Barbadian products being exported.
The three-day event was launched on Thursday June 6, at the Bagnall Points Art Gallery in Pelican Village.
Addressing the opening, chief executive officer of the BIDC Sonja Trotman said that this year, the organization was focused on increasing the island’s exports to the Caribbean Community (CARICOM).
“A buyers’ mission is very important to us. It is one of the tools we use to [help] our manufacturers reach external markets. This year we have a heavy emphasis on CARICOM, our major export market,” said Trotman.
“It is very important that we continue to indicate the importance to our manufacturers of reaching out to our CARICOM neighbours so that we can export more. If we are going to increase our trade in the very short-term, it is the CARICOM market on which we must place emphasis,” said Trotman.
Manager of export and development at the BIDC Paula Bourne said over the years the Buyers’ Programme has been fruitful for local manufacturers, with a number of them signing contracts with distributors from the region.
“We have had companies, perhaps as many as 40 Barbados companies, participate in the buyers’ programme over the years and we have had perhaps about 30 to 35 distributors join us over the years. If we add this year’s numbers, we would say that we will have approximately 60 buyers that will participate in the programme by the end of 2019,” said Bourne.
“What we expect is that networking takes place, that business opportunities are derived from it,” she said. She added that the BIDC would continue to assist local companies through its various programmes to increase the volume and range of products exported from Barbados to the region and internationally.
Bourne said CARICOM remains the island’s main export market, adding that while she did not expect any quick fixes in relation to increasing exports from Barbados, the various programmes, including the Buyers’ Programme, were relevant to “see benefits down the road”. Bourne noted that many small manufacturers here were eager to enter the CARICOM market or expand, but could not immediately say what markets were more popular.
However, she added, “The larger CARICOM markets tend to be the most attractive ones for our local producers. However, they are the ones that are more challenging than the smaller ones to get into”.
This year’s Buyers’ Programme, which was put on in association with the Barbados Manufacturers’ Association (BMA) and the Caribbean Export Development Agency, attracted 25 local companies with several overseas distributors.
Executive director of the BMA Shardae Boyce also promised that her organization would continue to assist local manufacturers with technical advice and various programmes critical to them penetrating other markets and increasing sales outside of Barbados.
Adding that the BMA would be working closer with the BIDC in the coming months to help businesses capitalize on opportunities, Boyce said, “We believe the challenges we face as a nation provide an opportunity for a new period of growth for the manufacturing sector.”
She also pointed to the need for “policies to encourage innovation and product diversification, which will take our local manufacturers into non-traditional markets”.
Marketing director of Armstrong Agencies Limited Andy Armstrong is one of the local manufacturers taking part in the Buyers’ Programme. Armstrong told Barbados TODAY he welcomed the initiative, adding that it provided local manufacturers with tremendous opportunities for expansion.
“I think the Buyers’ Programme is really important for local manufacturers. It really gives a good opportunity to look for new distributors in the islands, and if you have some that you may have already corresponded with but you want to get them [on board], maybe what you can do is give them a tour of your factory and give them a better appreciation of your products. Nothing really beats a one-on-one meeting in person,” he stressed.
Armstrong said some companies that visit the Buyers’ Programme were seeking specific items for specific industries directly from the manufacturers, and that could give local manufacturers a chance to start catering to that overseas market directly with the end user instead of going through a distributor. He said the notion that small businesses would not be able to meet overseas demand was not always true, given that a lot of the regional buyers wanted quantities of products that local manufacturers were able to meet the demand for.
Meanwhile, export manager at the West India Biscuit Company (WIBISCO) Lisa Murray told Barbados TODAY the Buyers’ Programme was an excellent one because it gave local manufacturers an opportunity to not only showcase their product but also increase their exports into existing markets. Adding that the event should help WIBISCO to enter new markets, Murray said the company was hoping to get new relationships, even in existing ones.
“So really, that is why we are here – to provide support to the teams on the ground because most of the buyers here are from markets in which we are already present. But anything that will further support and drive further growth of our brands in our export markets, we are definitely on board,” said Murray. (MM)