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Trade prospects in Central America

Local companies moving into new markets
Published: 
Thursday, April 12, 2018
Trade Minister Paula Gopee-Scoon with participants in the recent ExporTT trade mission to Panama and Costa Rica

Officials of companies that took part in the ExporTT trade mission to Panama and Costa Rica from March 18 to 23 said it was positive experience which is already yielding benefits.

The agency, in a statement highlighting the success of the venture, said: “The Costa Rican entrepreneurs were very pleased to receive the T&T exporters to complement their own industry or service offerings in the market. The participants were extremely elated by the engagement of the Costa Rican and Panamanian business sector.

“Through ExporTT’s involvement, trade relations among Costa Rica, Panama and T&T were reinforced and there were mutual complementaries of trade by all parties. We look forward to such arrangements in the future as we grow and develop new export trade relationships with our Costa Rican and Panamanian counterparts."

New markets for local goods

Adrian Boodlal, logistics manager, DSB Marketing, a Carsen Field company that does contract manufacturing for household and industrial cleaning chemicals, said the mission was important since the local market is saturated and competitive.

“With the shortage of forex in T&T we need to look to export markets to bring more money into the country,” he said.

“There are many opportunities from our Latin American neighbours. The markets there are not as competitive and with the trade agreements T&T has with these Latin Americans countries our manufacturers and businesses should look at how they can capitalise and make this a better country. Businesses need to give something back instead of looking to the Government to give hand outs,” Boodlal said.

He said the company of capable of exporting everything that they produce.

“We actually carry more than 50 refined products that we manufacture in T&T. We have dishwashing liquid, laundry detergents, fabric softeners, multi-purpose cleaners, hand soap, car cleaners and wax among other products. We are looking at every and any possible avenue we can penetrate,” he said.

Based on the prices and quality, DSB Marketing has the potential to compete internationally, Boodlal said.

During the trade mission the company was able to establish contacts with several companies and are doing ground work now.

“We actually got some good leads that we are following up with now,” he said.

Boodlal has some advice for other companies that are looking to break into foreign markets: “They need to get up and start to push hard or else everyone will come quickly and easily and overtake us because we do have the resources and the ability to do a lot better.”
KC Confectionery looks overseas

Rishi Ramnath, export representative at KC Confectionery, said the company entered Panama three years ago but left because they did not have a good distributor there. They are now trying to break into the Costa Rican market.
“We wanted to see first hand what products already exist in the market,” he said.

Despite potential hurdles, Ramnath is confident about the company’s chances to export to Costa Rica

“When we looked at the prices that they were selling, it is within the range that we can work with. We also met with importers and distributors there and they were extremely excited about the products that we had shown them. They have shown very keen interest.”

Starting from zero in new arena

Lorena Marin, business development manager at Vemco, said the company achieved what they set out for on the trade mission.

“In general, the contacts and meetings were very on target in terms of what we were looking for,” she said.

“I think that it is very important for a company to get the right customer to understand and to get information. A company wants to know if its product is competitive, if the price is right, who are the competitors in the market and the nitty gritty of the products in the market.”

Noting that getting into non-Caricom markets means getting into the international arena, Marin added: “That means a local company has to start from zero to introduce the product and compete with prices and presentation. It is important for a company to get the right customer in the new market and after work towards the objective.”

TTMA looking for export opportunities

The Manufacturers’ Association (TTMA) said the ExporTT mission to Costa Rica and Panama aligns with its focus on expanding local manufacturers export markets beyond Caricom into Latin America.

“This is with a view of seeking valuable US dollars inflows for T&T. While the mission itself is only the beginning of a long journey into creating trading opportunities, we held several encouraging meetings with government officials in both countries and with businesses eager to engage in trade with our local manufacturers,” the statement said.

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