Local manufacturers are navigating tough conditions in the form of global supply chain challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic and made worse by Russia’s war in Ukraine.
According to the President of the Barbados Manufacturers Association (BMA) John Marshall, “the supply chain right now is a mess”.
“If you asked me [now], I can give you a five out of ten, but if you ask me this afternoon, it might be four out of ten; it changes on a regular basis,” he said on the sidelines of Wednesday morning’s launch of the BMA’s Trade and Innovation Summit at the Barbados Hilton.
Marshall’s biggest concerns are the dwindling availability of raw materials and getting goods to the market.
He explained that bigger countries were dominating shipping and the region was therefore being serviced by fewer vessels.
Marshall believes it is a matter that merits CARICOM’s attention.
“It is not unique to Barbados; it is across the region. The major trade blocs, like Europe, North America, South America, and Asia, take up a lot of the vessel capacity so that vessel capacity in smaller markets like our own shrink. So you find a situation where you have fewer vessels serving the market than they used to have,” he said.
“So that is one thing that we would like to see CARICOM as a whole try to have a solution for; it is not just a Barbados problem, it’s a Caribbean problem. Small states across the world are having a challenge and you need a way either to get your raw materials to you or your products out to customers on time.”
In addition to the supply chain challenges, the BMA president said local manufacturers have been feeling the pressure of rising operational costs, namely fuel, electricity and water expenditure, and he urged members to be prudent.
“We have to be very careful of our costs, we have to be sure we are operating at a scale that is profitable,” he said.
Marshall, however, remains optimistic that the sector will continue to hold its own and he suggested that recycling was a potentially lucrative market that should be explored.
“We do consume a lot of goods and materials and we need to create industries that help us to recycle, and right now we really don’t have industries that recycle plastics and cargo packaging and things like that,” he noted.