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Opportunities for T&T in Latin Ame

Published: 
Thursday, March 22, 2018
Export mission to Panama and Costa Rica…
Dietrich Guichard PICTURES ABRAHAM DIAZ

With local companies are fighting to grow and find regional and international markets, exporTT continues its quest to boost exports with a trade mission to Costa Rica and Panama.

The team, which left T&T on March 18 and returns on tomorrow, spent two days in Panama before moving on to Costa Rica. Taking part are: Trade Minister Paula Gopee-Scoon, T&T Manufacturers’ Association (TTMA) president Christopher Alcazar, along with representatives of seven local companies—CGA Ltd, KC Confectionery, Vemco Ltd, Chemtrax Ltd, DSP Marketing Ltd, National Flour Mills (NFM) and Global Marketing Enterprise.

Dietrich Guichard, CEO of exporTT, said the mission is important because T&T’s trade has traditionally been concentrated in the Caricom area for non-energy products.

“T&T has a partial scope agreement with Panama and a Caricom agreement with Costa Rica but for one reason or the other it is not fully being utilised. This mission is to understand the opportunities that exist for local manufacturers in both markets and really build exports into these territories,” he said.

Breaking into Latam markets

Guichard said there are many opportunities for companies getting into the Latin American markets.

“The size of the markets is much bigger. Costa Rica is close to five million people and Panama is much bigger than the Caricom region,” he said, adding that huge strides in quality standards by local companies will give them a competitive edge in international markets.

“We want to ensure that manufacturers with the capacity are furthering their business into these territories.”

Betty Ann Noreiga-Mollineau, manager, Export Promotion, exporTT, said companies and trade associations representing on the mission will do everything possible to share T&T’s best practice.

“We have a wide portfolio of products that we manufacture here in T&T. I am sure we will be able to add value to the manufacturers in Costa Rica and Panama with our products,” she said.

“When we go there we are not only looking to sell our products but we want to buy their products also.”

According to Guichard, sectors in T&T with potential for the Central American market include food and beverage s, household cleaning products, paper products like toilet tissues and napkins, plastics and construction products.

He said: “In Costa Rica 94 per cent of all imported products in the market are from countries where trade agreements exist, so that bolsters our potential to export into these markets. Their importers look to exporter countries where there are existing trade agreements.”

Economic diversification

Guichard said it is essential that local companies go out to international markets to sell their products if T&T economy is to be diversified.

“It is vitally critical at this point in time as energy prices are pretty soft at the moment and revenues from our traditional energy exports are not as they used to be a few years ago. In order to continue to earn valuable foreign exchange the non-traditional, non-energy manufacturers have to come up to speed in terms of increasing their exports and helping with the diversification of the economy,” he said

Larger companies with the financial and human resources to compete internationally can break into new markets, but more support is needed for B Type exporters who are ready for regional markets but not yet capable a breaking into international markets.

He said exporTT is working with the full gamut of exporters and potential exporters to prepare them.

“We want to get those who are only in the local market into the regional markets. For those who have the capacity in the Caricom market, we want to get them into the extra regional and Latin markets,” he said.

Guichard admitted that there is a lot of work to be done to get businesses in Costa Rica familiar with T&T’s products and culture.

“A lot of the importers did not know that there was a trade agreement with Caricom, hence we are having missions like this one to really build the awareness of what Trinidad and Tobago has to offer.”

He is optimistic that the mission will be successful.

“Based on the research we did in Costa Rica, one local company has already garnered a great deal of interest for their products into the Costa Rican market.”

Commenting on the growth of private label products in Latin America, he said: “The advantage is a T&T manufacturer who is producing a particular product and his generic cost of production is competitive and the quality is acceptable into that market.

“If it is a large supermarket chain with their own brand, they would say they want you to produce this brand and the cost is good and could supply the quantities that are needed. Local companies are already in negotiation with a very large business in Cost Rica to produce private label manufacturing products.”

A trade mission to Colombia is planned for later this year and some local companies have already entered into the Cuban market.

There was a recent mission to the Dominican Republic where interest was shown in several local companies, including Trinidad Tissues and Carib Glass.

“There was an interest shown in their products and we will work with them to ensure that they could get into that market,” Guichard said.

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