An all-out effort will be made to boost Barbadian exports in 2021, the minister for manufacturing has promised.
As the coronavirus pandemic dented the nation’s target of about $1 billion in exports by one-tenth, Minister of International Business and Industry Ronald Toppin gave an assurance that he will be pulling out all the stops to ensure the island boost its export potential in coming months.
Total exports in 2019 were valued at close to $900 million.
In addition to a disruption to supply chains and a dramatic reduction to economic activity this year, Toppin reported that between January and November, certified exports shrank by more than $30 million, according to the Barbados Investment and Development Corporation (BIDC).
Toppin declared: “This global pandemic shook every pillar of economic activity in Barbados. Manufacturers face disruption to their supply chains along with contractions in their output and sales by significant margins. There was also the closure of several businesses and the loss of thousands of jobs that led to a run on the [Unemployment] Funds of the National Insurance Scheme.”
“Despite the major disruptions to trade we were able to achieve certified exports of almost $300 million between January to November 2020 which, though below last year’s tally of $333 million, is still worthy of mention, given the circumstances.”
Addressing the BIDC’s awards ceremony on Friday at the Bagnall’s Point Gallery, Pelican Village, Toppin pledged his ministry’s continued support to exporters of products and services, adding that he was not prepared to let 2020 go down as a wasted year.
“Though our path to achieving exports of $1 billion dollars may have been hedged in by COVID-19, it is still our destination for the medium to long-term,” he said. “I know that with several markets still going through periods of lockdowns, this is a big ‘ask’ of our exporters – to double or even triple their exports.
“It means doing things differently, finding new niche markets, making new business connections in unfamiliar locations, tapping the diaspora like never before. It means ‘pulling out all the stops’ and turning every crisis into an opportunity.
“I am determined that under my watch, 2020 will not be a wasted year, but a year when we saw the difficult things that have kept us back, as stepping stones for 2021.”
He also gave an assurance that solutions were actively being “constructed” to address export hurdles including capacity constraints, routes to markets, language barriers and access to finance.
“Even now, as I speak, we are exploring what products we can export, which markets we can penetrate, which routes we can take to get there, which producers we can aid in scaling up and exporting, what interventions the government can make to attain the big and audacious goal we have set for ourselves – growing our exports exponentially,” said Toppin.
He again pointed to the European Union’s blacklisting of Barbados this year, saying “be assured we are not going to stand idly by while developed countries or international regulatory bodies bring unjust or intimidatory practice against us”.
The BIDC’s legal officer Monica Mason-Crichlow, said 2020 has “brought with it many challenges and many changes”.
“It has also created what has been termed the new normal, even in the way we social distance and greet each other,” she added.
But she said that despite all the challenges which the pandemic brought, the one thing that remained constant “has been the excellent service of team BIDC”.
Mason-Crichlow said: “Over the past couple of months we have learned to become resilient.
“We have retooled and refocused our efforts in the way we deliver our services to not only our clients but other governmental agencies and the way we deal with each other.”
Several workers were rewarded for their years of service at the BIDC, ranging from 10 to 40 years.
There were also several “spotlight” awards, and special acknowledgement was made of four people who retired from the organisation, including its first-ever female chief executive officer, Sonja Trotman.